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First Look Pictures // R // February 2, 2010
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 30, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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Before she so much as steps foot aboard the boat, Jess (Melissa George) looks drained...distant. You'd think she'd appreciate the break. It's supposed to be a breezy Saturday of sailing off the Florida coast: Jess' autistic son is being cared for at school, she says, and the forgettable gig she has at a diner down the road is off in the rear view mirror. Jess, her friend Greg (Michael Dorman), a few of his pals, an awkward matchup, a gorgeous sailboat, and the Atlantic Ocean...sounds like there could be worse days. As they're who knows how many miles from the shore -- with nothing a flat, endless patch of blue in sight -- the winds abruptly die down. Distant voices crackle on the radio before fading away entirely, and some sort of electrical storm looms just off in the distance. Greg's sailboat capsizes from the violent assault of the storm, but Jess and most of her new friends somehow manage to escape unscathed, leaping from the tattered remnants of the ship onto a passing oceanliner. At first sight, the S.S. Aeolus looks to be deserted. Maybe it's just a prank by a bored crew...? It's a sprawling ship, so for all we know, maybe whoever's running it are all bunkered down together somewhere. Still, the ship is moving, so someone has to be onboard, right? As the five of them skulk around in search of answers, it becomes increasingly clear that something's not quite right: trickles of blood on the floor, a placard with an odd date on it, Jess being plagued by an inescapable sense of déjà vu... They're not alone on the ship, and the shadowy figure that soon reveals itself seems hellbent on slaughtering them all.

Look, I know that plot synopsis doesn't sound overwhelmingly original, and between that and the title, chances are you're expecting some sort of basic cable slasher flick wrapped around a Bermuda Triangle gimmick. Triangle -- which takes its title from Greg's sailboat, incidentally, rather than some sort of Bermudan backdrop -- is a difficult movie to quickly and neatly sum up. Despite the bloody axe and promise of "terror!" on the cover art, Triangle is much more of a mystery. The question here isn't something as ordinary as who the masked killer is, exactly: it's watching a story that at first glance seems straightforward and linear quickly shatter, and the intrigue is in watching all of these many layers start to take shape. I wouldn't consider it to be a horror movie at all, and even a catch-all label like 'thriller' doesn't do the film justice. This feels like something culled from The Twilight Zone more than anything else: fueled by a strong lead performance, driven by a compelling and unconventional narrative hook, and deftly melding the fantastic with the intensely personal. Visually striking, densely layered, and remarkably well-crafted on every level, the only disappointment I have with Triangle is that there's so much I want to say about it, and yet the more I delve into the film here, the more I run the risk of spoiling it. This
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is absolutely a movie that viewers will want to discuss after first experiencing it.

Triangle's story is complex yet exceptionally well-told, and it's appreciated that writer/director Christopher Smith doesn't bother leaning on clumsy twists or shocking reveals as a crutch. The third-act twist in these sorts of films generally color every moment that had led up to it, and they can't be fully appreciated until the next viewing. Triangle instead constantly weaves its layers together. The unconventional crux of the narrative is revealed less than halfway through, and it in and of itself isn't a startling twist because Smith hints at it all along. "Who?" isn't an especially interesting question; "why?", on the other hand, is. Like such movies as Memento before it, Triangle plays with its timeline, but it's also not fair to say that it starts at the end and works its way backwards either. It's much more complex than that, though it is true that we frequently see the aftermath of an event and learn only later how it came to pass. I can't help but marvel at just how many elements Triangle successfully juggles as part of this. Nothing Smith presents is insignificant, and everything he splashes across the screen is paid off at some point. As densely layered as the storytelling is, Smith also does a particularly brilliant job preventing it from ever once feeling confusing or overwhelming. There's quite a bit going on here, but I wouldn't expect that most viewers would have any trouble keeping up with it at all.

Triangle does a terrific job establishing a constant sense of unease, accomplishing this without relying excessively on the standard issue genre theatrics. The stalk-and-slash element is over and done with fairly quickly; the body count continues to pile up, but what takes its place is much more inventive than just a nutjob with a shotgun and a burlap sack mask. Though Triangle isn't quite the horror movie it's inaccurately-but-understandably being marketed as, the violence is swift, brutal, and shocking. The murders serve a much greater purpose in the story too rather than just whittling down a killer's victims until it's down to just him and The Final Girl. This is a smart, sharply written script, and it translates to the screen astonishingly well. For one, Triangle boasts a spectacular visual eye. Robert Humphreys' cinematography is immediately striking, and even something as seemingly mundane as grabbing
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laundry off a clothesline looks breathtaking. Admittedly, many of the moments in the interior of the Aeolus wind up looking fairly bland -- every corridor is meant to look alike, so this is unavoidable and likely even intentional -- but Jess spends more time than you might think in the light of day, and the framing, lighting, and stylized palette all benefit from an accomplished eye. The visual effects can be hit or miss, but they're astonishing when it counts. There's one shot in particular that's especially dazzling -- horrifying, disturbing, and just exceptionally well-realized -- and if it weren't such a colossal spoiler, I'd be showcasing it here now.

I'm also impressed with the cast. The supporting players do a great job of infusing personality into their characters as quickly and economically as possible; they don't have the benefit of reams of pages of dialogue or lengthy subplots to flesh them out, after all. Melissa George does a phenomenal job as the lead, seizing hold of an emotionally ravaged character with enough restraint to avoid overplaying it. With as essential as the emotional undercurrent ultimately proves to be, George's skill at conveying the gravity and torture of it all defines the film nearly as much as its fractured, densely layered storytelling. Triangle's earliest moments may lull viewers into expecting that she's just jiggly eye candy in tight shorts, but this really is an accomplished performance.

Triangle may be sneaking in under the radar, but a mystery/thriller this well-crafted -- its unconventional, intriguingly layered storytelling, strong cast, sharp visual eye, and the delicate balancing act between its unsettling tone and emotional undercurrent -- is well-worth discovering on Blu-ray. Highly Recommended.

Triangle's cinematography is intensely stylized: the exteriors are dominated by cold, pastel hues, with the contrast skewed enough that the highlights start to blow out. The innards of the ship, meanwhile, are dingy and muddy, and the image has a tendency to flatten inside as shadows take on more of a milky look. The interiors are admittedly kind of an indifferent shrug, not impressing all that much in high-def except when the camera's closed in fairly tightly. These moments look decent enough but come across as rather routine. The exterior shots, on the other hand, look terrific. The photography is consistently clean and clear, brimming with detail and boasting a robust sense of texture. The digital photography never once sputters or stutters, and no CCD noise ever creeps in, even in its most dimly-lit stretches. I couldn't spot any missteps in the authoring either: no trace of excessive noise reduction, no ringing around edges, and no glaring hiccups in the compression. I really love the look of Triangle, and it translates to Blu-ray flawlessly.

Thanks to the relatively short length of the movie and its sparse extras, Triangle's AVC encode fits comfortably on a single layer Blu-ray disc. Triangle is presented in 1080p24 at its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1.

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found myself immediately impressed by Triangle's spectacular sound design. This 16-bit, six-channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack consistently sounds organic and alive, with every last element of the mix boasting a remarkable sense of distinctness and clarity. A movie with this heavy an emphasis on directionality demands to be experienced in surround sound. There are the more incendiary effects attacking from every direction, of course -- violent wind, devastating crashes of waves -- but the design is so littered with smooth, seamless pans from one channel to the next that even something as simple as someone dashing around one deck up sounds incredibly immersive. I love how water will emerge from one speaker and crash in another, and there's even a fair amount of directionality to the dialogue as well. The sense of atmosphere fleshed out by the sound design is an integral part of the movie's eerie tone, and Triangle would be an entirely different film without it. Bass response is tight when called for, such as when the subwoofer reinforces a few cracks of gunfire, and it also coaxes a hellish rumble in the underbelly of the ship and as an almost otherworldly electrical storm draws near.

I'm floored by what Peter Baldock and his immensely talented crew were able to accomplish here; Triangle's sound design is not only in the same league as films with many times its budget but manages to eclipse quite a few of them. This is just an outstanding effort, and, the movie itself aside, it's the single greatest selling point of this Blu-ray disc.

Also included is a Dolby Digital stereo track (192Kbps). Subtitles are offered in English (SDH) and Spanish.

Not much, unfortunately.
  • Cast/Crew Interviews (6 min.; SD): Stitching together short, choppy snippets of interviews, this making-of featurette breezes through how the germ of the premise came together, touches on each of the characters, delves into the challenges behind Melissa George's leading turn, and offers a quick peek at the storm rig and the constructed half of the ocean liner set.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Also included are standard-def trailers for Triangle and a handful of other First Look releases: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, The Donner Party, and Lost City Raiders.

The Final Word
The cover art and campy tagline had me expecting some sort of routine slasher flick set in the Bermuda Triangle, but Triangle refuses to settle for something that conventional. Yes, there's a masked killer skulking around the ship, but rather than leaning on lazy thrills, Triangle plays more like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. It empties a boxful of puzzle pieces, arranging them so that at first Triangle's narrative seems relatively linear and straightforward, only to gradually reveal afterwards just how fractured it really is. The mystery and intrigue don't stem from a standard issue whodunnit but in how these jagged shards fit together. What would be twists in most any other screenplay are reasonably well-established beforehand; the surprises stem more from the emotional and psychological undercurrent that winds up driving the story rather than the reveals themselves. Clever and well-crafted, Triangle is a greatly welcome change of pace and a movie well-worth seeking out on Blu-ray. I would've liked to have seen a more extensive selection of extras, but Triangle still very much comes Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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