Triangle (2009) Explained

Triangle (2009) Explained

Triangle’s intriguing plot begins with a group of friends on a yacht suddenly coming upon a huge ghostly, abandoned ocean liner. What follows is a superb, well-paced thriller complete with deeper psychological concerns as the central character Jess (Melissa George) attempts to deal with a mysterious time loop. Sci-fi suspense movie or horror? I’ll let you decide. However, a hugely positive reflection on Triangle is that the audience are left puzzling out a myriad of questions long after the credits have rolled. What follows is an explanation of what I believe took place in Triangle

Circle of Events in Triangle

It is important to realize that there are only ever three Jess’ on the ship at any one time, and that when “Clueless Jesse” leaves the Triangle for Aeolus, there is a “Learning Jesse” and a “Mean Jesse” already onboard. There’s also a dynamic character shift taking place in which Jess is constantly moving up the chain from “Clueless’ to “Learning” then “Mean” before being killed and the whole process begins with the arrival of another Triangle yacht. In other words, Jess1 (our Jess pov) becomes Jess2 (learning) then realizes she must kill everyone to save them and so becomes Jess3 (mean). The circle continues after Jess1 (clueless) kills Jess3 (mean) who is then washed ashore on land, only to arrive later on board Aeolus again as Jess1 (clueless).

As mentioned, the three main Jess personas include the “Mean Jesse” (blood and wound down face from gun shot, knows about loop, wears mask, kills everyone), “Learning Jesse” (learning what’s happening, and how to complete loop so she can see her son again), and a “Clueless Jesse” (no idea what’s happening, only a sense of deja-vu). They then fall into one of two categories, namely the Jess who boards the Aeolus with no previous memory of events, and the other two onboard the ship who already have some experience of the time loop.

Triangle (2009) Explained

Movie Plot Explanation

For the purpose of simplicity, I will refer to Jess1 (our Jess pov) as a static number which will not change as she progresses through the characters. In other words, Jess1 refers to the main character we follow in the movie, while Jess2 and Jess3 are the ones we see later on the ship with Group 2 then Group 3’s arrival.

1: Single mother Jess1 goes off sailing with a group of friends (Group 1), consisting of boat owner Greg, married couple Downey and Sally, Victor, and Heather. The yacht is then struck by a storm and the group end up boarding a mysterious ship called Aeolus. Jess1 finds her keys on the floor, and after going to the dining area she is attacked by Victor1 and accidentally kills him while defending herself. A masked killer then begins to kill off her friends, and Jess1 subsequently forces the masked killer into the sea before Group2 arrives, including Jess2.

2: While running around, Jess1 drops her keys which Jess2 then picks up. Jess1 is then spotted running away, and Victor2 runs after her, resulting in an accident in which his head is impaled on a sharp protrusion. Jess1 runs away, discovers a room with a shotgun and messages written in her own hand writing saying “kill everyone who boards”. Heading off, Jess1 interrupts the meeting between Jess2 and Victor2 which would have resulted in his death, and relates her experience of the time loop. Jess1 doesn’t kill Jess2, though, who then runs away.  Jess1 goes to the theater, and injures the masked shooter causing a flesh wound to her head. Jess1 makes the masked shooter fall off the ship.

3: Group3’s arrival is watched by Jess1 and Jess2. Jess1 surmises that the loop will continue to run until everyone is killed and their counterparts are stopped from boarding the ship. Desperate to return back to her son, Jess1 now cleans up all the corpses and writes “Go To Theatre” on the mirror. Next, Jess1 puts on mask, kills Greg3, but is subsequently forced into the sea by Jess3. Jess1 then wakes up on a beach, watches an abusive sun-dressed Jess beating her autistic son Tommy. Jess1 kills “sundress Jess”, but suffers a car accident in which Tommy is killed, before then heading off sailing with her group of friends again.



Sisyphean Nightmare

Jess is being punished for losing her temper and killing her son at 8:17am (the time Jess’ watch stops). The fact only Jess’ watch matches that of the ship Aeolus is further indication that the whole loop is solely about her. As the story progresses, we observe Jess as an abusive single mother on a waitress’s salary who probably cracked before killing her autistic son in a fit of frustration and rage. We then see Jess watching her other self abusing her son, leading to Jess killing her other self and telling Tommy that things would be better from now on. Trying to leave town with her son, we witness a car crash (version?) of her son’s death.

We can also say that Jess probably did not die in a car accident on the way to the harbor, as in the car crash scene Jess is wearing a paint stained sundress, which in reality she wouldn’t be wearing if she was off to see her friends. Therefore, the car accident which kills Tommy doesn’t happen in the real world, but only in the doomed afterlife. She likely killed Tommy back at her house after her temper snapped. This may have been triggered by Tommy spilling the paint which got onto her dress, or alternatively it may have been Tommy’s blood which forced the clothes change. That is why the Jess who arrives at the harbor is always wearing a white t-shirt and shorts.

After her son’s death, Jess goes on her yacht trip and the group come across a storm at 11:30am, in which everyone dies (Gregg’s watch stops at 11:30am). Heather, who gets washed away at sea, probably doesn’t die in the real world, though, as she no longer plays a part in the rest of the story, while the rest of her friends end up on the doomed ghost ship.

The Truth Will Set You Free

The rest of the movie then centers around the never ending guilt Jess endures as she tries to do something which might avoid her son’s death. She also seems unable to come to terms with her culpability for what has occurred and so seems condemned to be trapped in a never-ending circle of purgatory. The mysterious taxi driver reminds Jess that she has killed her son, who is now dead. He tells her that if she accepts this fact he can take her away, but as we see Jess continues in the loop so that she can eventually go home to see her son again.

The taxi driver represents Death’s messenger waiting for her to accept the truth and be set free from her circle of eternal suffering. Nevertheless, Jess remains unable to come to terms with her situation and so journeys on to join the sailing trip to relive the phenomenon all over again. Jess will therefore stay trapped inside a circle of suffering like the son of King Aeolus, Sisyphus, who broke a promise to death and was punished by having to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down, over and over again.

  • Tivep

    There are some staggering plot holes in the story.

    • ben

      Time travel never works…

  • Raghubir Singh

    I think the theme of this film, come from the story from Ramayana/Puran, the holly book of Hinduism. Just read below story

    One day, Lord Ram was informed that it was time for him to die. He had no
    problem with that. He understood that creatures who take birth have to
    experience death. “Let Yama (God of Death) come to me. It is time for me to return to my heavenly abode, Vaikuntha,” he said. But Yama dared not enter
    Ayodhya. Yama, the god of death, was afraid of Hanuman who guarded the
    gates of Ram’s palace and was clear no one would take Ram away from him.

    To allow Yama’s entry, it was necessary to distract Hanuman. So Ram
    dropped his ring into a crack in the palace floor and requested Hanuman
    to fetch it. Hanuman reduced himself to the size of a beetle and entered
    the crack only to discover that it was no crack but the entrance to a
    tunnel that led to Nag-lok, the land of serpents. Hanuman met Vasuki,
    king of serpents, there and informed him of his mission.

    Vasuki took Hanuman to the centre of Nag-lok where stood a mountain
    of rings! “There you will surely find Ram’s ring,” said Vasuki. Hanuman
    wondered how he would do that. It was like finding a needle in a
    haystack. But to his delight, the first ring that he picked up was Ram’s
    ring. To his astonishment, even the second ring he picked up was Ram’s
    ring. In fact all the rings that made up the mountain of rings were
    Ram’s ring. “What is the meaning of this?” he wondered

    Vasuki smiled and said, “This world we live in goes through cycles of
    life and death. Each life cycle of the world is called a kalp. Each
    kalp is composed of four yugs or quarters. In the second quarter or Tret
    yug, Ram takes birth in Ayodhya. Then one day his ring falls from earth
    into the subterranean realm of serpents through a tunnel. A monkey
    follows it and Ram up there dies. So it has been for hundreds of
    thousands of kalpas. All these rings testify to that fact. The mountain
    keeps growing as more rings fall. There is enough space for the rings of
    the future Ram.”

    Hanuman realized that his entry into Nag-lok and his encounter with
    this mountain of rings was no accident. It was Ram’s way of telling him
    that he could not stop death from coming. Ram would die. The world would
    die. But like all things Ram would be reborn each time the world is
    reborn. So it would be forever.

    This cyclical view of life is the essence of Indian thought.

    For the Hindu mind, Ram is timeless and universal and so cannot be
    fettered to period or place. That is why the day of his birth is
    celebrated every year as spring gives way to summer. Every year he
    comes, every year he goes. But everyone has faith that he will keep
    coming back.

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  • JstTest

    Well your explanation really helped clear some messy plot loops, but there is one point I’m still confused, so at which point in the story did Jess “really” died? On the yacht (events here real or just a nightmare after death)? On the ocean liner (events here real or just a “nightmare after death)? In the car crash (events here real or only a nightmare after death)? Or when she was at home (my guess is this is where “reality” really took place, she killed her son out of rage then committed suicide in the house, she never left the house, and everything else that happened on the yacht, ocean liner, and in the car running over the seagull are all nightmare loops after her death)? Or did she die at all (perhaps she didn’t die after trying to commit suicide and was just suffering in a coma or a mental breakdown & living in a reality of endless repetition of nightmare loop)?!

    • WALLACE

      She died on the yacht before the movie begins. The entire film takes place in purgatory. The beginning of the film story that we experience is following her, already dead, with no real memory of the ocean liner, just a sense of deja vu. Mean Jess is reset to Naïve Jess right before the film begins.

  • aeonfluxx75

    Your explanation is very similar to my take on the movie as well. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • marjie narey

    Good review but I don’t understand why you and some other reviewers say she murderered her son in a fit of rage. Nowhere in the film does she murder her son. He dies in the car accident. The Dead Jess in the road is the Jess that has been murdered and stuffed in a bag in the car boot. It fell out onto the road in the crash. Also there was almost everyone’s favourite ‘through the mirror’ scene. The first Jess, after throwing Jess3 overboard hears music stuck in a grove and resets the record and then goes to look in the mirror. She walks away but the camera goes through the mirror, and now we are ‘in the mirror’ as it were. Everything is reversed and the second loop begins. This time, the second group on the upturned yacht approach the liner from the right side of the ship instead of the left side as the first time. – sort of a parallel mirror universe, and this second loop plays differently from the first. Also I don’t think you can try and analyse all the whys and wherefores. As I see it, there isn’t a beginning or an end. It exists in a place where space and time doesn’t exist. Hence one of the reasons it’s called Triangle. Just my thoughts. Thanks.

    • http://www.astronomytrek.com/ Pete

      Hi Marjie. and thanks for the comments. They certainly may have died in the car accident, but the fact Jess in the car crash scene is wearing a sundress with paint spilled on it by Tommy earlier, while the Jess that arrives at the harbor is wearing white t-shirt and shorts may indicate that in reality she accidentally killed Tommy after he spoilt her going out dress, after which she changed her outfit, put Tommy in the boot, and on her way to the harbor had a car accident at 8:17 and died. Also, Jess was supposed to have taken her son on the yacht trip, but during the accident the big black bag falls out of the truck of her car, and later at the harbor she says that he is “at school” although it was Saturday!