Pretty sure that Netflix has a rule that for every breathtaking film they release like Roma or The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, there has to be at least 200 mediocre outings like Bright, Mute and now Triple Frontier.
Granted, Triple Frontier is a much better film than both Bright and Mute, but you get my point. Steven Spielberg doesn’t have to be worried about this one getting any Oscar attention, is all I’m saying.
From All is Lost and A Most Violent Year director J.C. Chandor, who also worked on the screenplay alongside The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty writer Mark Boal, Triple Frontier is a new action thriller that boasts an incredibly talented ensemble and a dynamite premise.
That, of course, begs the question of where did this movie go wrong, exactly, but we’ll get there in due time.
Pope (Oscar Isaac), Redfly (Ben Affleck), Ironhead (Charlie Hunnam), Catfish (Pedro Pascal) and Benny (Garrett Hedlund) were once the best of the best when it came to military operations. Their unit, we’re briefly told but never actually shown (one of the many problems in this movie), could stop put to just about any kind of nefarious activity as they were sent out to various places around the globe to carry out these deadly, highly classified missions.
Now, that part of their life is over and they’re all finding themselves struggling to make ends meet back in the United States.
With nowhere else to turn, Redfly has started selling condos — a job that he’s notoriously bad at — just to afford his daughter’s education. Benny, meanwhile, has turned towards MMA fighting while Catfish has been utterly humiliated after losing his pilot’s license due to charges of cocaine use.
Point is, they all feel used and then abandoned by their government — which is why they’re all willing to lend a listening ear to Pope when he comes to them with a plan to take a little something for themselves for a change.
Thanks to a source on the ground, Pope has learned of a highly notorious drug lord, whose name is Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos), living inside a mansion deep in the South American jungle. If the source is to believed, the walls are literally lined with millions upon millions of dollars that are right there for the taking.
The plan is simple. While Lorea’s family is at church, they’re going to burst in there, kill Lorea where he stands and steal all the money for themselves.
Nobody ever said they were the good guys, after all, which becomes more and more obvious as Triple Frontier goes on.
As you might imagine, though, things quickly go wrong which then places our five “heroes” in a life-or-death situation that sees them needing to escape South America while an entire army is trying to track them down.
Funny thing is, Triple Frontier would probably have been a better movie if things didn’t go wrong in that way as the first half of this film is far superior to the second half.
I was thoroughly enjoying the moments in Triple Frontier where we see this team re-unite, express their frustrations about life and then begin forming their plan to rob Lorea’s place. Even the heist itself is intensely filmed and well-choreographed, leaning into the promise that Triple Frontier will be the exciting and gritty thriller the trailers promised.
Then the second half of the film kicks in and things get pretty monotonous pretty quickly. Think Lone Survivor, only this time the stars are a lot less likable and everything is a lot more clichéd.
I mean it when I say they’re less likable, too. Regardless of how you feel about the decision they make to carry out this plan (I think it makes for an interesting character drama that could have been explored in really interesting ways), things go far off the wayside when the five soldiers start invading foreign towns and shooting civilians left-and-right.
There might be some further inner-conflict that comes from that as it leads to such much-needed conversations about PTSD and whatnot, but it’s never really explored in a way that feels completely responsible, either.
It’s the ending, really, that kind of rubs me the wrong way in that regard. Without going into any spoilers, everyone is still kind of treated as a hero by the time Triple Frontier fades to black, and their actions are all kind of brushed aside.
There’s still an interesting way to do all of that, in the hands of the right filmmakers, but, again, the willingness that Chandor has to overlook all of that and just make a by-the-numbers action movie doesn’t work for me.
That all being said, I still like the initial set-up of this movie. Chandor plays with some interesting ideas here and it’s a shame we don’t see him take them further like he did in Margin Call or A Most Violent Year.
I’ll give credit to the cast, too, all of whom are likable and play into some typical military banter that you’ve come expect from all of them (even if the actual characters themselves are a bit inconsistent as their personalities will often flip-flop at the drop of a hat).
All of that to say, Triple Frontier is a fine thriller you won’t hate yourself for watching. It starts off good and, for a while, even tilts on the line of being great, before the weight of the whole thing just comes crashing down and it resorts to becoming a standard, forgettable film that completely loses sight of its’ initial goals. By the time it wraps, we’re left wondering whether the filmmakers themselves got lost inside of the message they were trying to tell as the whole thing just comes off as uneven.
Watch the trailer for Triple Frontier here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the film!
'Triple Frontier' - Netflix mediocracy strikes again! [REVIEW]6