Post #374: Triangle (2009)

Originally I started this off with what I thought was a very clever and appropriate quote, but then I thought “Hang on. I went into this movie totally cold with no idea what it was about. Other folks should have that option.” So, if you know absolutely nothing about this movie, stop right here and go watch it. Trust me. You won’t be sorry.

If you’re familiar with the movie’s premise already, by all means read on. See, here’s the thing. “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.”

Steven Moffat said that. Well, he wrote it. David Tennant said it as The Tenth (and second all time greatest) Doctor. Such was the premise of Quantum Leap and Slaughterhouse-Five as well. Time is all jumbled together with one point touching many others.

Still…time loops confuse me. Maybe I over think them. But mostly I just can’t follow what’s going on. I lose the thread, and before I can regain my bearings, I discover I don’t have enough bread crumbs to get home.

That said, these things exist on a spectrum for me. At one end is Primer. I liked Primer quite a bit which is weird for me. Usually if I can’t follow a movie, I can’t stand it. But Primer was pretty groovy despite the fact that I had zero idea what the hell was going on. Happily, I’m not the only one. I’ve read other reviews that suggest one might be aided by a complicated flow chart and a PhD in math. I feel the same way about Coherence and The Endless.

Clustered about near the center is stuff like 12 Monkeys, Donnie Darko, The Butterfly Effect, and the idea that changing even the most minute detail can have a disastrous ripple effect. I like the chaos theory aspect of that, but again, can’t always follow it.

And at the opposite end of Primer is Timecrimes. I’m not suggesting Timecrimes is less complex that Primer, but its main premise is something I can completely relate to. The protagonist is, at best, one short step ahead of what he thinks is going on, and has to piece it all together as he repeats the loop and finds more information. It’s as hard for him to follow as it is for us, and that’s what makes it fun.

And that brings us to Triangle. On said spectrum, this one along with Edge Of Tomorrow and Happy Death Day sits very close to Timecrimes. A woman named Jess shows up one morning to go sailing with some dude she knows and his friends. There’s an accident, and they end up on an abandoned cruise ship that miraculously appears out of nowhere.

Well, mostly abandoned as the group catches a glimpse of a figure near one of the rails who then runs off. Okay, so I guess something can’t be “mostly abandoned.” It’s either abandoned or it ain’t. But you get my point. Anyway, not long into their explore, they hear someone drop something then head down a passageway to find a set of keys someone dropped, except they’re actually Jess’s keys.

And so begins the aforementioned wibbly wobbly timey wimey loopy stuff. It turns out that version of Jess we’ve been following along in the movie up to this point is not in fact the first time loop version of her after all. Okay. Not to worry. Deep breath. So she’s been through this scene once before. Maybe more than once before. No big deal, right? Well, wrong. A later very significant reveal that shows us that Jess has been through this a shit ton of times.

But let’s veer away from the plot at this point. First off, I don’t wanna give anything away, including a major full-circle holy shit kinda twist that links back to the very beginning of the movie. And second, let’s have a look at some of the other stuff that’s going on below the surface, specifically in terms of mythology.

Mythology? Well, yeah.

First there’s a big mysterious storm that capsizes the boat. Storms have a way of tossing people into a weird otherworld. It happens in The Odyssey, The Wizard Of Oz (her name’s Dorothy Gale fer fucks sakes), Back To The Future, etc. Then the looming symbol that is The Aeolus appears. Maybe I’m just programmed that way from years of teaching mythology, but I can’t see a boat without going right to the afterlife, the river Styx, Charon, and Hades.

And other things in Triangle bear this out. There’s a specific discussion of Sisyphus, the guy who has to push the rock up a mountain only to have it roll away so he could start over. Rock & roll to be sure. He received this punishment for trying to, wait for it, cheat death which figures very much into Jess’s motivation as well.

The Aeolus itself is named for the kind of Aeolia who was also, oh damn, the father of Sisyphus. But there’s also an Aeolus (who may or may not be the same person) who gave Odysseus a bag full of all the winds except the West which would allow him to get all the way home to Ithaca. Well, just in sight of Ithaca, Odysseus falls asleep, and his men open the bag. The winds blow them all the way back to Aeolia. Oops.

There’s also a scene where Jess is getting into a cab. The cabbie in a black shirt walks up behind her and asks “Are you alright?” Jess asks “Who are you,” and he says “Just the driver.” Could it be that this is our stand-in for the ferryman you have to pay (cab fare) for your journey (cab ride) to the next world (The Aeolus)?

So there’s a sense in which the entire movie centers on sin, punishment, cheating death, futile effort, and continually ending up right back where you started. But put that check book away. There’s more. Specifically, there’s The Shining and numerous references to The Overlook Hotel. Hell we even get some significant events taking place in room 237. And speaking of room 237…

3 years after Triangle, in the 2012 documentary Room 237, one commentator makes a number of observations about mazes and the minotaur. It’s therefore worth pointing out the labyrinthine nature of The Aeolus (not to mention those killed inside it) as well as the idea of Jess attempting to navigate the time maze her life has become.

Looking over what I’ve writ up to this point, even I have to agree it ain’t a bad start, especially not for seeing the movie but once. Clearly I’m gonna have to revisit, hopefully not over and over for eternity, but sometimes one has to put some skin in the game. Anchors aweigh.

BODIES- almost impossible to calculate in terms of those implied by the circumstances
Streaming- Peacock, Pluto, Prime, Tubi, Vudu
Rent- Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube

3 thoughts on “Post #374: Triangle (2009)

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