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The Triangle Review

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by Simon Crust Jun 3, 2006

    The human condition has an infinite capacity to categorise, pigeon hole or otherwise label the world abound. Such labelling requires a rigorous set of rules, and for the most part they work. It is only when something different, something extraordinary; something that doesn't fit in comes along when that infinite capacity is challenged. Of course, it is the nature of nature not to be categorised; and this bring up another of the human conditions; its love of a mystery. When that special something that cannot be rationally categorised or explained, those mutually incompatible inbuilt needs kick in; the idea of a mystery is appealing, but the need to explain it becomes paramount; this leads to, what some might call, wild speculation, to others plausible explanation and yet others unproven theories. We love to cook up these ideas to explain away irrationalities, they are all about us; spirits, UFO's, alien abduction, the yeti, the Loch Ness monster etc., etc.; all, by there very nature, cannot be categorised, all invite mystery and all inspire legend. One such legend is the Bermuda Triangle, an area of nearly half a million square miles of the Atlantic ocean defined by the points of Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Florida. I'm not here to debunk nor prove any theories about this expanse of water, save to say that the disappearances of the craft, both sea and air have all be explained by rational means, but it doesn't matter, because the love of the mystery remains and this gives writers any means by which to explain away its 'occurrences'. Seizing on this very idea actor turned writer/producer Dean Devlin and filmmaker Bryan Singer have expanded the Bermuda Triangle mythos in the latest of a slew of new and slick sci-fi mini series'. The Triangle brings together some of the creative minds that put together Independence Day with director Craig R. Baxley to produce a new twist and tries once and for all to uncover the 'real' reason behind the mystery.

    Eric Benerall (Sam Neill) is a multi billionaire shipping mogul who has started to loose a number of his super tankers to the Bermuda Triangle. The latest ship actually made it through but had some scars from the journey; half the crew missing, an engine room covered in blood and a fifteenth centaury stow away that had been turned inside out. Thinking enough is enough Benerall uses his considerable wealth to entice four 'experts' in their field to answer from him, once and for all, where his ships have gone. Those experts are Dr Bruce Geller (Michael E. Rodgers) a charismatic daredevil scientist whose meteorological expertise is unrivalled; Dr Emily Patterson (Catherine Bell) whose oceanographical expertise in unrivalled and the only girl on the team; Stan Lathem (Bruce Davison) a down on his luck physic, specialising in finding lost children; and Howard Thomas (Eric Stoltz) divorced reporter and sceptic, written and interviewed plenty about the Bermuda mysteries. These four individuals are brought together and immediately start to get results; fortuitously (for them, not for the victims) a Boeing 747 crashes in the 'triangle' they are the first on the scene and discover the body of the plane, but bizarrely it has the appearance of a crash that is some forty years old; at the same crash point there are several 1940's single wing navy fighters that looked to have crashed hours ago. To complicate matters the only survivor of the 747 crash was a six year old girl trapped in the bathroom of the plane, but when she is rescued she is closer to sixty six. After this encounter the group all start to have some very lucid hallucinations, different realities where things are very similar but not quite the same; Emily has a mother compared to her being adopted in this reality; Bruce is dead; a group hallucination sees them all in a Nazi run state. The closer the group comes to solving the mystery the greater and more powerful the disruptions to space time occur. Meanwhile Meeno Paloma (Lou Diamond Phillips) a Greenpeace activist who lost his crew to the triangle is having his own problems; his family keeps changing, his youngest son is one minute there, the next gone, at one stage he looses them all; is he is loosing his mind or is the triangle to blame. He seeks out Howard as a source of answers only to find the group, who, after receiving an official answer and discovering it wrong, are setting out to set the events right. He joins them and avails them of his speed boat, but when they reach ground zero they are too late; or are they? As the Triangle has physical laws to itself, breaking the time barrier is just another way to save reality.

    Of course this show is based on rubbish. And I think it knows it too. But what it does do is take its material seriously enough to sound credible, even if the fantastic ideas put forward are incredible. The basic premise manages to take a two popular held myths (I will not spoil things by saying what) adding a little twist and combining them to answer the mysterious phenomena that is occurring; science be dammed this is TV. However I did like the final concept, even though it's been done before, even though I felt the conspiracy theory parts were wearing a bit thin. What it does manage to bring is extensive production values, very competent visual effect, a cast of professionals that lend quality to their performances bringing out the humanity in the insane happenings; all these elements pull together to make a whole surprisingly better than its parts. Intended to be viewed as three parts over three nights there is actually a decent enough flow to sit and watch all in one sitting; the lack of 'previously on' making a nice feature. The characters get a deal of back story to explain away their motivations, delving enough into their emotions to make us care about their fate. Structurally the show comprises of two distinct stories, those of the experts and their quest for the truth and that of Meeno; now I have to admit that even though both stories have their elements when separate, when co joined there is a degree of instability, since there is little to connect the events unfolding in each plot path, in fact Meeno's entire anguish only seems to be there as an excuse for him to converge with the primary story in the last half hour because he has a boat. A little contrived, to be sure, and when looked at from a distance seems forced on, but in episode his story is as compelling a mystery as the main draft.

    Director Baxley manages to keep things ticking along nicely, the time never drags, even with the mammoth amount of exposition needed in the first episode (disliked his preference to use sweeping camera moves past static individuals as they exposit - I understand the reason, to add some urgency to the proceeding, but boy is it annoying) helped amiably by the performances of the main cast; the relatively new faces of Rodgers and Bell join with veterans Neill, Davison and Stoltz and produce enough chemistry to keep the dynamic of the group working; Philips is out on his own for most of the picture but remains convincing in his lost at sea part. For TV the effects are pretty darn good, there is liberal use of GC and while noticeable if forgivable considering the medium; I particularly likes the 'weight' given to the aircraft as they were buffeted by the wind. The only real problem I had was with the day for night shots, of which there were a few too many; with the amount of money pumped into the show for effects, a few more quid to add a few actual night shots would have improved things immensely. Be it filters or computer colouring, it looked wrong. A fairly minor grip considering though, because on the whole I found The Triangle to be an entertaining, if slightly far fetched, yarn. With enough mystery generated early on there is a real sense of wanting to discover, along with the characters, what is happening. So whilst it isn't 'Edge of Darkness' in its intensity or 'V' in its wildness; by combining the best elements of those type series' there is plenty of entertainment to be had. Best of all? It answers all the questions it posed and concludes complete. Mystery solved.