Wednesday, March 31, 2010

lost at sea

When first waking up, I spend a few moments in this strange place between consciousness and sleep, like I'm existing in two worlds at the same time, but am disconnected from both. I'm lost in this space where everything around me feels both familiar and foreign. Slowly my mind clears, my senses wake, and I remember where I am and who I am. But that feeling of drifting deja vu and disconnection is so distinct and unique that I was incredibly surprised to experience a similar sensation while watching Triangle.

Triangle was written and directed by Christopher Smith, the auteur behind the hilariously disturbing Severance. Though it was actually released in 2009, it certainly never came to a theater near me and finally just came out on Netflix Watch Instantly. Starring Melissa George, this outing is less gory and less funny than its predecessor, but it's still thoroughly mesmerizing. George stars as Jess, a waitress and single mother of an autistic child who is invited on a sailing trip by Greg, a regular at her restaurant. They are joined by two of Greg's closest friends, Sally and Downey, their friend Heather whom they awkwardly invited along in the hope that she'd hit it off with Greg, and 18 year-old Victor, a troubled kid that Greg has taken in to help him operate his boat, The Triangle. It's sufficiently awkward and realistic as the characters meet and get to know one another. Sally takes an immediate dislike to the quiet Jess, partially due to her disappointment of not being able to set up Greg and Heather, but also due to Jess's shorty shorts. Jess self-consciously stumbles as she attempts to make friends, while visibly dealing with the guilt leaving her son for the day.

It doesn't take long for things to turn dark. A sudden storm tears the boat apart and tragically drags the likable Heather out to sea. Once the storm passes, the survivors huddle on the hull of the capsized sailboat. To everyone's relief, a cruise ship appears in the distance and makes its way to the rejoicing survivors. But the ship is abandoned, completely deserted. Soon after, the characters start being picked off one by one, and eventually Jess faces a masked assailant in a climactic fight scene on the upper deck, during which she victoriously throws her attacker into the ocean. And that's just about when you hit the half hour mark. Wait, what?

So the standard slasher storyline is finished and there's still about an hour to go. And this is when things get strange and that disconnected otherworldly feeling starts to kick in. As Jess gazes out to sea, relieved at having killed her anonymous assailant, she sees a capsized schooner with five survivors waving for help. When the cruise ship approaches, Greg, Sally, Downey, Victor and Jess Version 2.0 board the ship and the story begins again. What follows is a beautifully executed dance of overlapping timelines and trippy plot twists. That dreamy deja vu ratchets up as Jess struggles to understand what is happening to her and why events are repeating themselves.

Usually I am all about the spoilers, but this is a movie that needs to be enjoyed with a little surprise and mystery. I can't bring myself to give anything else away. It's not a perfect film, but it's an ambitious and occasionally fascinating one. The screenplay is beautifully written, with realistic dialogue, a complicated concept, and subtle references to Greek mythology and The Bermuda Triangle that weave together creating a chilling chain of events. The entire cast hits their notes perfectly, but it's Melissa George who carries the whole film with believable weight and grace. I used to be firmly in the anti-Melissa George camp (thank you Alias season three), but after Triangle, In Treatment, 30 Days of Night, and realizing that she was totally in Dark City, I'm starting to think that she might be an extraordinarily talented actress.

1 comment:

Tom Barnes said...

Good storytelling. When you mix a bit of truth, myth and fantasy you've got the formula for a good story.