(Also spoilers for TimeCrimes) I’ve not seen Chris Smith’s Severance, mainly because Danny Dyer’s in it. On the evidence of this film, however, he’s got talent to spare as a director, although I’m not so sure the several years he spent on the script have paid off.
Melissa George and her yachting companions encounter strange weather conditions and then come across an apparently deserted ship. Exploring it, things start to get weird. And then a whole lot weirder.
Whilst the “What is it about?” is evident by the time the credits roll, a glance at IMDB‘s Boards indicates how much debate the different possible permutations of the plotting have provoked. I actually prefer the looseness of possible interpretations (in comparison with the too rote for me Time Crimes for example, with which this shares certain structural similarities even if its conceptually very different) but there’s a sense that getting to caught up in analysing every detail will end in disappointment, reading in levels and tangents that were not intended.
Melissa George is outstanding, some of the CGI is ropey, and there’s a shot reveal just after an hour in that is just jaw-dropping.
Time Crimes stopped working for me when the protagonist decided to wrap the bandages round his head. Then, without reflection or (apparent) flaw in his actions, he went through the motions of repeating himself as the antagonist he’d encountered earlier, in order to complete the loop. How, aware of the situation, was he able to repeat his actions and why did he make the assumptions he made and decisions he did, which were pretty grim ones? I just didn’t buy into the character’s choices. And more than that, the action of playing out the earlier events to the tee did not engage me or seem remotely plausible.
Likewise, in Triangle I began to get uneasy when George seemed to be blundering into forced repetitions. Then – joy – she became aware of her ability to change the outcome, which culminates in the shocking scene of all the dead copies of the female character she sees on the deck (and a nice touch that many of them have the cardigan she then puts on the dying character). So other versions had that self-awareness.
But then, after this flash of insight, she seems to revert to type, repeating the actions in order to fulfil the narrative demands (as far as I could tell). Which seems to involve the same kind of precise repetition of events we see in Time Crimes. Even though they require different definitions of what the loops “constitute”, they are played out in similar language. It left me disappointed as, from that point until she reaches shore, I found the film all-too predictable again.
I can see some of the arguments that others have presented; that she would ultimately succumb to her violent nature and so, despite a flash of awareness, reverts to type. And, the compulsion to get back to her child operating as an overriding impulse. But, as at least one version of her (the one who was beaten to death on deck by herself) hadn’t taken that course, I’d have liked to see more variations of it play out differently. There’s a point in the film where the giddy potential (the bodies on deck) falls into a more routine line; there could have been any number of variations on the theme presented or versions of herself on different courses aboard the ship. The course chosen might serve the purgatory/damnation theme more fittingly, but it fails to satisfy in terms of character logic.
There are still other aspects of Triangle that require protective logic to explain, like the “gods” rules for what on the ships stays and what goes with each loop. The mirror sequence is probably the most under discussed moment in the film in terms of symbolic importance; is there supposed to be a “switch” then, where full realisation of what George must do takes place and she becomes the ruthless killer version of herself?
Ultimately, I was left dissatisfied as the film was neither as rich or layered as I hoped it would be; partly because the use of certain elements felt over familiar, but mainly because the characters become slaves to the where Smith wants to take the plot and so cease to hold integrity.