Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review of Triangle (2009)

Ever since I saw Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING, I've been a fan of films with nonlinear narratives - from Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch's films to MEMENTO and IRRÉVERSIBLE. Like these films, writer/director Christopher Smith's recently released TRIANGLE is a film that not merely uses nonlinear storytelling, but uses it well.

Much has been made of TRIANGLE'S similarities to the Spanish film TIMECRIMES (LOS CRONOCRÍMENES), which was released on DVD in the U.S. 11 months earlier. While there are admittedly surface similarities - in the same way that zombie, vampire and slasher films tend to have surface similarities - closer attention reveals that these are much different films.

In TIMECRIMES, after his good-natured and affectionate wife leaves to buy them dinner, Hector goes in search of a woman he sees (using binoculars) undressing in the woods behind their home. Mayhem ensues, and Hector ultimately finds himself in a time machine that seems too easily accessible (and conveniently located) at a facility nearby.

In TRIANGLE, we see Jess - a single-mother/waitress played by Melissa George - trying to get her autistic son ready for school so she can take one of her customers up on his offer to join him and some friends on his boat. As in TIMECRIMES, things don't work out as planned, but unlike Hector, Jess doesn't practically stumble into a time-machine, over and over again.

In fact, there's no definitive explanation given for what Jess experiences, though it's suggested during a conversation early in the film. When Jess and the other passengers flee their storm-ravaged boat (named Triangle) for what appears to be an abandoned cruise ship named Aeolus, a comment is made - seemingly in passing - about the mythological origin of the ship's name. This scene, and a vaguely odd cab ride towards the end of the film, seem to be the twists that connect TRIANGLE's Möbius strip-like story.

As Jess relives earlier events from different points-of-view, new information is revealed that explains scenes from earlier in the film. It's easy to understand why Christopher Smith claims it took him nearly four years to work out the story.

The cast did an admirable job making an occasionally difficult film seem believable. The cinematography was appropriately (not distractingly) washed out when a character emerged on deck from the ship's dark interior, and the characters' isolation was emphasized through the use of long shots both outside the ship and within it's corridors.

My only criticism is the lack of surround sound. Besides making the storm, gunshots and chases more immersive, it could have been used when re-visiting earlier scenes to emphasize that we're seeing them from a different perspective.

Even still, this is a minor criticism against a film I strongly recommend to anyone looking for something different from Hollywood's popcorn flick of the week.