Categories: Sci-Film Reviews

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.

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.

Peter Christoforou :