The Australian sci-fi/horror movie Triangle is a favorite of mine for many reasons. First, young Liam Helmsworth is deliciously babyfaced, and Melissa George is so heartbreakingly vulnerable you get lost in her tears and forget to look at the hard truths staring you in the face. The best movies do that. This mindbender is the real deal with just the right amount of gore, mystery, and confusion to keep you engaged throughout.
Jess(George) is a single mother of an autistic child. After a rough morning, she goes to the marina for a much needed day of sailing with friends. She is a raw bundle of nerves from the start, and as the day takes a disastrous turn, her emotions become even more chaotic. A freak storm capsizes their sailboat, and the group finds refuge on an ancient ocean liner. A terrible truth is revealed as a masked killer picks them off one after another.
Heavy Spoilers Ahead……….
Like all good stories there are those who tell the tale and those who listen. The problem with this storyteller is she is unwilling or unable to admit the truth. This leaves the viewer in a confused and ignorant place. Most of what we see is neither real or truthful. Jess isn’t what she seems and her reality isn’t real. There are clues everywhere from her fragile state first meeting her friends and her exhaustion on the boat. Sure she is weary from her rough life but both behaviors are exceptionally intense. Jess apologizes to Greg right after meeting him on the boat. We initially assume she is apologizing for being late, but its more likely she’s apologizing for the accident we see later in the movies
The first overt clue something is skewed is the freak squall that ends up destroying their sailboat. Strange weather is possible at sea, just not things that swoop in like some sort of biblical plague complete with actual calms before the storm. Additionally, the pre-1940s era ocean liner, the group climbs aboard is newly deserted but in perfect working order. The rivets in the ship give it away as nearly 100 years old, yet it is floating empty and in relatively good shape. Very little rust or wear is present, and there is even fresh fruit. All of those things are impossible unless the ship resides in the Twilight Zone or the Bermuda Triangle.
The ship appropriately named the Aeolus is a nod to the character from Homer’s Oddessey. He was first described as a man but later becomes a minor God commanding the winds. Sally(Rachael Campani) and Jess have a brief discussion about it right after boarding the ship. In mythology, the God’s one flaw is a quick and terrible temper. This could correspond to the events we later see inside Jess’s house when she grows angry with her son. In the Oddessey, Aeolus gives a bag of favorable winds to Odysseus to help him reach his home after recuperating on his island for a month. The crewmen open the bag after being told not too, and the winds blow them right back to Aeolia, where Aeolus refuses to help them again. Just like Jess, Odysseus finds himself right back where he started.
The other Greek fable discussed is an offshoot of Aeolus himself. Sisophys is Aeolus’ son and the beleaguered champion of the fruitless task. Most accounts state he was punished for being self-aggrandizing or having cheated another God; he was charged with rolling a massive boulder up a mountain for eternity. Every time he got near the top, it would roll back down, forcing him to start over again. This obvious reference is to the futility of Jess’s quest to escape the loop. You can’t cheat Death, ever. Sally claims Sysophus was punished for making a promise to Death she couldn’t keep. Jess is punished for her anger and selfishness. She is imprisoned in a cage of her own making.
Everything that we see with the exception of the events while still wearing the flowered dress is all the fantasies of a guilty mind. Anytime you see Jess in shorts and a white tank top, it is “ghost” Jess. Her death torments jess. In the scene at the crash, her son is being tended too, but it sounds as if his death is imminent also. Her dead body lays on the street, bloodied and broken. Whether she caused the accident intentionally killing herself and her son or it was an accident, the result is the same. The loop is either a creation of her guilt, or she is stuck in purgatory for her suicide. Many religions believe suicide is a sin, and those who commit it are doomed to live there for eternity.
It is first assumed that is the body Jess from the boat bludgeoned to death on the house. That is a red herring. Jess never changed clothes, never boarded the boat, and never killed anyone but herself and her son. Alone, frustrated, and stressed out by the pressure of raising a special needs child, she made a horrible mistake. That is why she never changes clothes on the way to the marina.
The dead body on the street in the aftermath of the accident was the real Jess. It was not some time looped “ghost” Jess, who came back to save her son from “angry” Jess. The real Jess knew this was the end and didn’t care if she had paint on her dress. Jess acts irrationally and can’t escape what she has done. Everything that happens in the film is a guilty fever dream. She says as much to her son in the beginning when she says he just had a bad dream. Bad dreams make you think you saw things that aren’t really there. That is precisely what happens in Triangle.
This theory explains her odd word choices and demeanor throughout the movie. Visions or nightmares of being washed up on shore and seagulls flying overhead wrack her mind. That vision comes to life later when she relives the dream after going overboard the Aeolus. Her watch and the clock of the ship are both set to 8:17 am. There is a sticky note in Jess’s house reminding her to meet at the marina at 8:30 am. On the way to the marina, the accident happened. 8:17 am was probably the time of death. She even makes the cabin number onboard the Aeolus the same as her home address 237.
The original sin started at home. Each of the people killed on the ship are just extensions of herself. Victor(Helmsworth) represents the carefree youth she lost, Greg(Michael Dorman) is what she wants in a romantic partner, Sally(Raphael Carpani) and Jack(Jack Taylor) are the outwardly perfect couple she wishes she was part of. These people, I’m sure, exist in real life, but they are never trapped with her in the loop. They are manifestations of her guilt and part of her punishments.
Until she accepts her fate and willingly goes to the Underworld, she will never escape. The ferryman to the River Styx in the way of a patient cab driver tells her he will keep the meter running. She is not caught in a time loop, but rather an endless cycle of pain and punishment. Death is waiting for him to bring Jess to the Afterlife, and he won’t be denied. No matter how many loops she goes through, she will never escape. The best she can hope for is to be crushed by the boulder.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.