Triangle: the sci-fi horror movie's ending & time loop explained.
Triangle is a sci-fi horror film that explores sin and punishment through a unique time loop-style plot, but what does it mean and how does it end?
The 2009 psychological thriller, Triangle , is an underrated gem that explores the themes of sin and punishment in a constantly changing plot that keeps audiences engaged and guessing every step of the way. Directed by Christopher Smith, Triangle is a British-Australian film that follows a group of friends on a boat trip that goes horribly awry.
As the boat trip goes on, people start dying in a tale that feels a lot like a traditional slasher film. But, as the friends try to figure out who the killer is and what’s really going on, a mystery begins to unravel into a truly bizarre tale of science fiction horror . Triangle stars Melissa George as main character Jess, a single mother of an Autistic son who clearly seems to be struggling with the daily grind of holding it together and caring for her child. While the movie’s plot descends into a time loop , the audience follows Jess’s struggle to escape the loop and make it back home to safety.
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With some unique mythological parallels combined with a modern look at time travel, sin, and punishment, Triangle delivers a truly compelling story, but does so in an open-ended way that may leave some audience members scratching their heads without multiple watches.
Triangle's Time Loop & Ending Interpretations
In past interviews, Christopher Smith has said that he wanted to keep Triangle open to interpretation, telling Indie London :
“There are three ways for you to understand the story. There’s the ‘Is it a Bermuda Triangle story and it’s all supernatural?’; there’s the ‘is she having a breakdown?’; and there’s the ‘did she get in a crash, get concussion and go off for the day?’ All those three things can work and you should feel emotionally satisfied at the end.”
An additional interpretation of the story is that Jess actually died in the car crash, and the time loop of eternal punishment is her version of Hell . She’s being punished for abusing her special needs son and is now trapped in this reality forever doomed to repeat her fatal actions.
That’s not just speculation, either. Christopher Smith has been clear about Triangle’s parallels to the myth of Sisyphus, a figure in Greek mythology who was punished by being forced to roll a giant boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating the cycle or eternity. Throughout the film, Sisyphus is mentioned specifically by name and the abandoned ocean liner that the group finds themselves stuck on is named the Aeolus, the name of Sisyphus’ father.
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In discussing his ideas for Triangle , Christopher Smith specifically mentioned wanting to make a circular film that explored déjà vu while avoiding the impulse to recycle the tactics used in Jacob's Ladder . He also mentions Memento and Dead of Night as specific influences on the creation of this movie.
This interpretation is backed up by showing hints that Jess is still stuck in the time loop as she gets in the car with Tommy after finally making it back home. When she hits a seagull and goes to discard the dead creature, a whole pile of dead gulls signals that she’s done this before, and not just one time.
Fans have also mentioned that the dead gull could be a nod to the 1834 poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in which a sailor is cursed when he kills an albatross. His entire crew remains stuck on their ship at sea as they all die except for the mariner who has to watch the corpses of his friends around him. When he starts to pray, he's allowed to return to land, but remains cursed to wander the earth and tell people his tale to warn them of repeating his actions, which is a very fitting comparison to draw.
Regardless of how audiences choose to interpret the movie, it’s no mystery that Triangle is a great film offering intrigue, creativity, and a chilling horror experience.
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