Triple Frontier is a film that has ‘literally’ been years in the making. The film was commissioned back in 2010, with Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp signing on to star, a script from Mark Boal, and Kathryn Bigelow at the helm. Some five years later, production continued to stall and Bigelow left because she wanted to focus on her film about Bowe Bergdahl. Enter J.C Chandor, who signed on to direct and a new cast of Channing Tatum, Tom Hardy, and Mahershala Ali. The film hit yet another snag in the road, as Paramount Pictures dropped the film and the cast once again departed. But a shining star was waiting in the wings as Netflix announced it had acquired the rights and had cast Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal.
Directed by J.C Chandor from a script now co-written by Mark Boal and Chandor, Triple Frontier is a straightforward but effective film about brotherhood. While the plot can feel uneven at times, its A-list cast all deliver stellar performances and the action set-pieces are riveting and superbly constructed. It manages to avoid predictability with its subversion of expectations, keeping Netflix’s hot streak of solid film releases alive.
Triple Frontier chronicles the lives of five former Special Forces soldiers who have all moved on from their decorated lives in the service. Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaac) is a mercenary living in South America tracking a reclusive drug lord, Gabriel Lorena, and is hell-bent on bringing this man to justice. When an opportunity arises to not only destroy Lorena’s empire, but to also take all of his dirty money, Pope recruits his old team to plan the ultimate heist: Tom “Redfly” Davis (Ben Affleck), William “Ironhead” Miller, Ben “Benny” Miller (Garrett Hedlund), and Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pedro Pascal). Breaking every oath they have ever swore, the squad heads to South American to complete their mission, unleashing a chain of unintended consequences.
As with most Netflix films, Triple Frontier never strives to be anything more than what is advertised: a group of soldiers perform a heist and problems arise along the way. The film tries to emphasize the ambiguous emotions of these men toward the task at hand – with the driving theme of the film being greed – but, it mostly takes a shallow approach, flip-flopping between self-indulgence and morality. In a story like this, one must wonder if taking a darker approach to the story might have been a better call. It is clear that each character is tortured in their own way, but the film never fully explains why each character needs this money other than “being forgotten by the USA”.
Where the film lacks in an uneven plot, it makes up for in its action set-pieces. Chandor superbly creates an eerie and pulse-pounding environment. Whether it be in the jungle, over a mountain, or on a beach, there is never a moment where uneasiness is not felt. With all this money in their grasp, they are constantly looking over their shoulder as someone is always lurking the shadows. Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov’s use of a green aesthetic ties in nicely with the theme of greed as this group brutally fight their way through an unforgiving landscape, feverishly plotting their every shot and next move.
The strongest aspect of this film is, without-a-doubt, its main cast. At 125 minutes, Triple Frontier devotes all its attention to its main five cast members and each shines in the fairly simple narrative. Chemistry between the actors enhance both character interactions and development, elevating the drama at hand. As stated, each character seems to be down on their luck following their service to their country. Nobody cares about the sacrifices these men made while in uniform and nobody certainly cares about them now.
Leading the charge is Ben Affleck in his first post-Batman role. Affleck shines as the hero soldier who now finds himself with a shattered marriage and a directionless job. Redfly is apprehensive about the job at first, noting he has his family to look after, but after he sees the sheer amount of money, it is a painful switch from the least to the hungriest character for gold. Isaac is picture-perfect as Pope, the team leader. As the head of the squad, Isaac brings a cool-headed charisma to the role, as he knows that what they are doing may be wrong legally, but it is for the betterment of the broken nation.
Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund star as brothers William and Benny Miller and their relationship in the feature is both heartfelt and meaningful. They look out for each other at all times but when one problem after another arises, their relationship is put through the ultimate test and Hunnam and Hedlund bring their A-game to their roles. Finally, Pedro Pascal is the group’s pilot, Catfish, and, while his character seems to be the least fleshed out amongst the rest, Pascal is still electric in his performance.
Overall, Triple Frontier features an exciting cast and gruesome visuals that make up for its rough premise. It nails the gritty tone with its stellar action sequences and tense atmosphere. Its heart elevates the themes presented and the chemistry amongst the main cast is second to none. Its subversion of expectations will keep you on your toes and all in all, this is yet another solid outing for Netflix’s film department.
Rating – 7.5/10
Triple Frontier is currently playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox before hitting Netflix on March 13, 2019.