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Triangle

Year: 2009
Studio: Icon Entertainment
Director: Christopher Smith
Writer: Christopher Smith
Cast: Melissa George, Michael Dorman, Liam Hemsworth, Emma Lung, Henry Nixon

Never mind Looper, this film is the most tightly wound time travel tale you've ever seen, and not in the way you think. The seemingly simple plot – of a group of friends on a pleasure cruise who are shipwrecked in a storm and come across a deserted ocean liner – doesn't cover the half of what it's about.

The entire thing is a brilliantly constructed Ouroboros, the mythical snake eating its own tale that signifies a thing with no beginning or end, just an endlessly repeating cycle. That's all you can say about it without giving the whole thing away, but you'll see few other films where every strand ties effortlessly to another and completes the whole circle.

Not a single idea, line, scene or connection is wasted, and even when you think it's going to go on too long to apply some tacked-on happy ending or overstay its welcome, the script merely completes the picture, so utterly locking the ending back to the beginning it'll almost make you gasp.

We meet Jess (Melissa George), single mother to a mentally disabled son, trying to get him organised to go to school so she can join some friends and acquaintances on a boat trip they hope will get her mind off things.

When Jess shows up at the marina and is greeted by her friend Greg (Dorman), she's distracted and foggy even as he introduces her to the rest of the guests. Jess tries to be sociable on the cruise and it's obvious she's holding a torch for Greg, but when a sudden severe storm blows in and turns the boat over, it becomes a fight for survival.

Clinging to the overturned hull, the group floats towards a huge old liner, and even though they're sure they've seen someone on the deck as they approach, they climb aboard to find the ship completely deserted.

Things then turn both weird and deadly. After awhile it becomes obvious there's a killer stalking them throughout the ship, and when bullets and blood start to fly, you're half an hour into the movie and left wondering where else it can go with only Jess left alive.

On the tiniest of plot turns, the Mobius strip is revealed one violent and mysterious act at a time. Looking back you're not sure exactly when you realise what was going on (or whether there was ever any real explanation for it – I still don't remember seeing one), but suddenly you're on the edge of your seat for the rest of the movie, waiting for it to weave the next strand into the whole.

The story of the shipwreck, the people and the killer is almost secondary. It's just a device to depict one of the most inventive story constructions ever, a bit like watching what's going on in the mind of an omnipotent narrator as he/she constructs a perfectly formed narrative circuit.

The image of the deck covered with countless copies of the same bloodied, dead body is a good example – not only a very arresting visual but a brilliant visual representation of the core idea.

If there's any downside, there was no real reason to give the Australian cast American accents and try to set it in America. The unique architecture of the Australian suburbs and the camera panning across the front of the Southport Yacht Club in southeast Queensland kind of blow the whole thing, and it has a British writer/director. One can only imagine the financiers were American and wanted it to play in their own territory.

Other than that, the performances are adequate (the accents get wobbly more than once), but it's all about the construction. It reminded me of Lost Things, which had a similar air of dread and menace as well as a multi-layered story of gradually-revealed mystery, but as much as I love that film, I have to admit Triangle is even more tightly wound.

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