Yaya (Charlbi Dean Kriek) and Carl (Harris Dickinson) are a model-influencer couple who take part in a luxury cruise in exchange for posts on their social media. The luxury cruise's passengers are comprised of super-rich oligarchs, including a Russian fertiliser magnate (Zlatko Buric), a British weapons manufacturer (Oliver Ford Davies), and is captained by a Marx-quoting alcoholic captain (Woody Harrelson). However, the cruise runs into a storm, and is soon attacked by pirates, after which a handful of survivors (Dolly de Leon, Vicki Berlin, Iris Berben) wash up on an island - and then the real trouble starts...
It's hard to imagine a movie more deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from its audience in recent memory than 'Triangle of Sadness'. Specifically, an extended sequence totalling close to fifteen minutes of projectile vomiting, explosive diarrhoea, capsizing hotel rooms, and general chaos that serves to set up 'Triangle of Sadness' for its second half. Ruben Ostlund's previous effort, 'The Square', had its moment of divisive comedy, but 'Triangle of Sadness' really is on a whole other level.
Before and after this, however, 'Triangle of Sadness' is a bleak satire of the worlds of fashion, the uber-rich, luxury yachting, and post-apocalyptic society. Anybody who watched 'Below Deck' will grasp the basic principles of luxury yachting, but in 'Triangle of Sadness', it only serves as a framing device for what's essentially an examination of modern class structures and gender roles. The opening salvo has Carl and Yaya, played with exquisite emptiness by Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean, bickering over paying a bill for an uneaten dessert in a fancy restaurant that then spirals out into a revelation about their relationship. It's purely transactional and completely empty. When the story moves to the yacht, Carl's hang-ups over his masculinity play out in the kind of icy humour you'd expect from Ostlund's previous work.
By the time 'Triangle of Sadness' makes its way to the halfway point and the symphony of shit hits a crescendo, you're exhausted from it all and almost unable to absorb the next portion. Still, Ostlund's deliberate emphasis on pacing and drawing out scenes helps to build the momentum back up again, and makes for some of the most interesting aspects of the movie. Like a lot of arthouse comedies, 'Triangle of Sadness' doesn't expect or even need you to laugh at it because it's not even intended as such. Satire is meant to be a criticism and exposé, angry and hostile at its subject. 'Triangle of Sadness' is a furious movie, completely red with rage at the yacht's passengers and survivors.
As mentioned, Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean both play a blinder as the sterile Instagram-ready couple, while Woody Harrelson is kept off-screen for a significant portion of the film and only appears when he's blind drunk and arguing with Zlatko Buric's Russian oligarch about Marx as the yacht is sinking. Dolly de Leon takes up the reins in the movie's second half, leading the survivors and enforcing her iron will on them with ease, while the prissy Chief Stew, played with aplomb by Vicki Berlin, weasels her way into a similar role.
'Triangle of Sadness' will test your limits, in both its pacing and its morass of chunder. It is supposed to be anarchic, crazed, chaotic, and after it, you're not entirely sure whether to laugh or be horrified. Either way, it leaves an impact. Go in with an open mind and an empty stomach.