First Look Pictures // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // February 12th, 2010
Terror comes in waves
Director Christopher Smith's previous films Creep and Severance were both subject to mixed critical reception, attacked for relying heavily on bloodshed and stylized violence over suspense or originality. Then Triangle arrived theatrically in the UK last October and gained a decent degree of buzz, yet despite the agreeable word of mouth the movie still flopped. This is surely the reason it's being rushed direct to DVD in the USA; it may not be perfect but it's certainly worthy of big screen distribution. The film has a fresh idea at its core and a terrific leading performance at its disposal, which along with Smith's atmospheric direction marks the venture as a winner.
I'm going to keep it brief here; Triangle is definitely the sort of movie that benefits from being watched with as little background awareness as possible. The set-up sees an obviously dazed Jess (Melissa George, 30 Days of Night) head out on a yacht cruise with a bunch of friends, only to end up being hit by a storm and seeing their small vessel upturned in the Bermuda Triangle. They are rescued by a huge ocean liner, but onboard it appears completely deserted, and Jess begins to suspect that everything isn't as it seems. As the group explores, Jess starts to feel she's been onboard before and then the crazy stuff starts...you'll have to watch to find out what exactly that entails.
The biggest locomotive in Triangle is the central character of Jess, and in Melissa George's hands it operates brilliantly. The not unattractive Australian turns Jess into a completely empathetic and engaging screen presence, capturing a subtle sense of unease from the start and molding it into a full-on fit of delirium by the conclusion. It's a skillfully mounted transformation aided by robust writing and a commendable understanding of human psychology and the character's back-story. George is extremely relatable and inartificial and does a marvelous job of capturing the fear and disarray of the situation without overacting or falling back on her natural beauty. I've seen the actress in a few other movies and in honesty wasn't until this point particularly impressed, but with Triangle she's won me over, and I now positively look forward to seeing her again. The rest of the cast are simply interchangeable plot devices. They only matter in terms of beefing out the story and conceit, so the fact none of them is particularly good isn't an overly unsettling fault.
Smith directs with an eye for the eerie and deserves major kudos for having dreamt up the story in the first place. Triangle isn't a horror film but rather a well-crafted psychological thriller. Those looking for seat-shattering scares and buckets of blood will certainly be disappointed; this is a feature with more mature and ambitious pretensions. The consequence of this is at times the movie does feel slightly flat and a few scenes boring, but for the most part I relished the mind games Smith puts Melissa George's character through. The film is worth watching because it attempts and largely succeeds at doing something intelligent and refreshing, with a focus on characterization rather than labored torture sequences. The fact that a few scenes maybe aren't as enjoyable as you want them to be is a minor annoyance and probably an unavoidable one given the unusually dense and psychologically challenging nature of the project. Yes, it first appears that masked goons are running rampant on the ship, but Smith quickly morphs this into a fascinating game of cat and mouse, switching the hunter and the hunted superbly in his surreal battleground. The concept that permeates through most of the movie is great, and whilst I understand as a reader my resistance in revealing it is frustrating, you'll thank me for keeping it on the down low if you take my recommendation and check this thing out.
The movie wants to spook rather than terrify, and the dream-like visuals and melancholy score add to the haunting demeanor. Smith also deploys a subtle brush of Greek mythology to give Triangle an unusual but clever context, one that the viewer will probably only fully understand come the surprising and understated finish. However, despite my recommendations you might want to give Triangle a rental first as the DVD itself is a sub-par release. The audio feels excessively soft at times and whilst the video quality is ample, the range of added content is poor. All that is included on this standard-def release are seven minutes worth of interviews spliced together into one short feature. You get input from at least half a dozen people but with the exception of Smith and George, nobody is saying anything new or of any real insight. I guess some value is regained thanks to a funky looking (but misleading) slipcase, yet real film fans are going to be aggravated with the lack of meaty extra features.
It's not a masterpiece or anything, but Triangle still deserves to be seen. Plus, it makes me want to check out Smith's past films, despite their mediocre reputations. The DVD release mostly blows though.
The current me says not guilty, but the new me might not be so kind. However
I hear the old me really loved it, so it's definitely free to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R