The Triangle Review
1492 and somewhere in the Atlantic, three ships, the Pinta, Nina and the Santa Maria, are being led west by Christopher Columbus but an already treacherous journey is made worse when storm clouds gather overhead and thunder rumbles about the sky. As the waters swirl around them, the lightning illuminates an impossible sight...a great ship made of iron, a hundred times the size of the Santa Maria and sailing without the use of sails. As Columbus stands dumbstruck at the sight of this ship, a mysterious light appears in the sky, into which is torn the flesh and bones of his first mate, who disappears along with the ship. Columbus continues west to his eventual discovery of the Americas but notes in his log the events of the night, incredible as they seem.
More than five hundred years later billionaire shipping magnate Eric Benirall (Sam Neill) visits the docks to meet one of his transport ships as it comes alongside. In the past year, Benirall has lost seven ships in the area known as the Bermuda Triangle and although he didn't lose this one, the bodies of most of its crew are scattered over the engine room and the only recognisable corpse is one that appears to not have had any modern vaccinations as well as suffering from the onset of scurvy. It would appear as though this sailor dates from the late-fifteenth century.
Wanting answers, Benirall asks that a hand-picked team of experts join him to discover the truth behind the Bermuda Triangle. Alongside journalist Howard Thomas (Eric Stoltz) are psychic Stan Lathem (Bruce Davison), scientist/adventurer Bruce Geller (Michael Rodgers) and ocean resource engineer Emily Patterson (Catherine Bell) and promised unlimited funding for their research as well as a salary of $5m, they set out to solve this puzzle. But whatever anomaly exists in the Atlantic is becoming more active and within days, a Japanese whaling ship, a Greenpeace speedboat and a US Southern aeroplane are either sunk or brought down by the Bermuda Triangle. As Benirall's team begin their investigation, Greenpeace activist Meeno Paloma (Lou Diamond Phillips), who was the only survivor of the sinking of his boat, returns to Miami but finds himself between worlds and unable to make sense of any of them. Similarly, Benirall is haunted by the ghost of his dead brother while Howard Thomas and the rest of his team also suffer nightmares but as a storm gathers over the Atlantic, time is running out for them...
Created by Bryan Singer, Dean Devlin and Rockne S. O'Bannon and shown last year on the Sci-Fi channel in the US, it was something of a surprise to find The Triangle scheduled by the BBC over the recent Bank Holiday weekend. Granted, it was shunted into a set of very late-night slots but given that one would have expected the BBC to toss it to BBC3 or to leave it to a satellite channel to pick up, it was a pleasant surprise to find the national broadcaster doing the decent thing with it. And indeed, a May Bank Holiday weekend is the most suitable time of the year for something like The Triangle, when the weather's good but not that good and a long day can be brought to a close with a couple of beers and the watching of some ridiculously-plotted, conspiratorial sci-fi.
And ridiculous is what The Triangle is. In the manner of the feverishly-pitched Dan Brown thrillers, which have already optioned such shadowy organisations as the Knights Templar, the Catholic Church, Opus Dei and the Illuminati, Singer, Devlin and O'Bannon have looked instead to the Bermuda Triange, a 1.2 million km² piece of the Atlantic Ocean where, over the centuries, ships and airplanes have vanished into, apparently, thin air. Most famous of these were the squadron of five US Navy TBM Avenger jet fighters in 1945 but in the manner of all such mysteries - the Turin Shroud, the Tunguska Blast, the Oak Island Money Pit - an industry has sprung up around it, all with the intention of unraveling it. And yet, what's fascinating about all of these mysteries is that they are, and have remained, exactly that...mysteries. As much as there are various explanations that have been put forward for the Bermuda Triangle - releases of methane gas is the latest explanation - it would be a whole lot less interesting if we knew the truth. After all, where's the appeal of the Money Pit if we know what's in there? As Dan Brown and David Icke have both realised, there's no conspiracy like one that connects itself to another and Singer, Devlin and O'Bannon work hard to come up with an explanation that keeps this in mind. Whilst anyone expecting UFOs, merpeople and the sniper from the grassy knoll might be disappointed, there's a sinister group of men-in-black, a shadowy team of special agents, a secret offshore facility staffed by men in dark glasses and even mention of the Philadelphia Experiment. It all adds up to a rum old business and when a group of pan-dimensional neo-Nazis appear in Florida, The Triangle seems complete.
Unfortunately, were it two hours shorter, The Triangle would be a lot of fun but it doesn't half drag. The first episode is everything that a conspiracy nut could hope for - the Bermuda Triangle, a downed airliner, an old woman who aged quickly in an undersea time pocket and a rich industrialist with bottomless pockets and a point to prove - but the second, where The Triangle attempts to make sense of its conspiracy, slows to a crawl. In some respects, you can understand why the producers looked to make some sense of the story they'd spun themselves but The Triangle ebbs and flows between storytelling and characterisation and simply throwing conspiracies at the screen until something works. With regards to one, there's a backstory involving one of the passengers on the downed jet and the brother of Eric Benirall but they look to fulfill their other remit by lurching towards an ending that will have you baffled. Characters come and go as time and events slip in and out of various realities and as much as it doesn't make a great deal of sense the first time, when we're forced, Memento-like, to watch it again in a different order, there comes a time when you would welcome David Icke's lizard-people with open arms. All the better, indeed, were they accompanied by the Roswell aliens, Martin Bormann and a box containing the Holy Grail.
Looking better than it did on BBC, The Triangle is a good mix of bright Floridian sun - South Africa, actually - and the soft lighting of black op military installations and has been handsomely transferred onto DVD by Momentum doing a typically decent job. There's little, though, that really stands out about it and if one were to compare it to another release, it's not that dissimilar to Momentum's CSI boxsets, being good but doing not much more than serving its purpose.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, though, really stands out with there being good use of the rear channels. In fact so good is it that, at one point when my wife asked me a question, I wondered who it was onscreen who was talking. That this happened during a scene with Bruce Davison and Eric Stoltz bobbing about in an otherwise uninhabited ocean seemed to be yet another mystery brought in by the producers to give their story more longevity. The audio track sounds good and there's plenty of obvious use of the rear channels to make this that rarest of things, a television show that actually makes use of a surround sound system.
There are two extras on this two-disc set and both of them are on the second disc alongside the third episode of the mini-series. The first and best produced of the bonus material is Sci Fi Inside: The Triangle (20m34s), a typically excitable behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Triangle, which features interviews with the cast, none of whom would describe themselves as authorities on the Bermuda Triangle, as well as Bryan Singer and Dean Devlin who both appear to know far too much. These interviews are the very best thing in the feature, which spends too much time on the special effects, but it's a pity that many of them are duplicated in the disc's other bonus material, a compilation of Interviews (33m51s) with the same cast and crew.
Despite the complaints that I might have over its somewhat leisurely pace and attempts at confusing its audience, The Triangle is still an enjoyable piece of hokum but much like the lower-budgeted, Michael Paré-starring The Philadelphia Experiment, one shouldn't read very much into this. Good fun over a couple of nights, The Triangle wouldn't miss half of its running time being cut but if you're missing Ripley's Bullshit...Believe It Or Not, you could do worse.