REVIEW: ‘Triple Frontier’ is More than a Good Looking Cast

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Triple Frontier

When I first saw the promotional material for Triple Frontier, a Netflix Original movie, it was clear that the cast was the who’s who of attractive male actors. Directed by J.C. Chandor, and written by Chandor and Mark Boal, the latter of which is renown for his writing credits on The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, the film has an all star main cast of Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Gerrett Hedlund.

Although I was drawn to the film because of the cast, I was quickly pulled into their world and buckled in for the ride. Triple Frontier is centered on five former Special Forces operatives, Tom (Afleck), William (Hunnam), Benny (Hedlund), Fancisco (Pascal), and their leader Santiago (Isaac) as they plan a heist that will hopefully fix their problems, and end the life of a narco. The five go by their codenames Redfly, Ironhead, Benny, Catfish, and Pope – respectively.

With the goal to steal millions of dollars from one of the worst narcos around, the group enters a sparsely populated multi-border zone in South America, aiming to take down the narco and leave with enough money to continue their lives that the government has forgotten about. For the first time, this group of soldiers and friends undertake a mission to serve themselves and not their country.

Although Triple Frontier follows a formulaic heist timeline in the beginning, it doesn’t stay there for long. Pope assembles his semi-reluctant team, they plan the heist, they execute the heist, and then things take a turn. It’s a simple formula, but it all happens within the first act of the movie. When things don’t go as planned because of personal greed, the team must adjust and overcome.

They fight for their survival but as things spiral out of control you begin to wonder who is holding everything together, who is ruthless, and who just wanted the heist to end without bloodshed. As each of the men are pushed to their breaking points the actions of one sets the future for the others.

Although this film features a heist gone wrong, it isn’t because of circumstance, but instead because of every choice made by their characters in the pursuit of hundreds of millions of dollars. Running from one enemy multiplies into running from more and they have to question if their survival or the money is more important. In the end, there is one person who carries most of the blame but as the men discover they each have contributed to their fate.

The action happens in quick bursts, focusing on tactical infiltration and “hunting,” making this less about adrenaline pumping action and more a story about the characters. The film itself is slower than I expected with long sections of travel, which although slightly boring, push the development of the characters and gets the audience acquainted to their personalities. As each member experiences losses of life, we also learn where their moral compasses point and it’s the dramatic acting that works in these scenes and outshines the action sequences.

Although each of the men delivers solid performances, there is some inconsistency in character personalities that have more to do with the script and less to do with their delivery. Each character performance is well done, but it’s Isaac as Pope and Pascal as Catfish that stands out the most. As the leader of the heist, Pope bears the weight of responsibility for the team and as the movie progresses each decision and misstep pulls him down. It must also be noted that he delivers his performance in both English and Spanish, as the only member of the main cast who uses both languages extensively — although Pascal’s Catfish and him exchange Spanish with each other.

Triple Frontier
TRIPLE FRONTIER (2019) – pictured L-R: Oscar Isaac (“Pope”) and Ben Affleck (“Redfly”) Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon / Courtesy of Netflix

But when it comes to protagonist and foil, Affleck’s Redlfy is the perfect character to reveal the morality of Pope. It isn’t because he’s ruthless, but instead, it’s because the decisions that he makes are grounded in desperation as much as greed. He is selfish but with reason and he is all too human even if it costs those around him. Hunnam’s Ironhead and Hedlund’s Benny aren’t standouts, but they aren’t badly written or acted either. Every member of the cast has a place in their brotherhood even if they aren’t greatly explored.

Although this is more of a personal appreciation than a credit to the film, it was great to see both Pascal and Isaac playing Latino characters and using Spanish to talk with each other in small moments. That being said one of my critiques of Triple Frontier is its use of Spanish. Now, the description of the location is a location in the jungle that shares three borders.

That being said, there is a visible sign denoting that the men are crossing into Brazil, however, there is very little Portuguese spoken. If you are unaware, of the South American countries, there is a multitude of dialects, indigenous languages, and of course, the most distinct lack of Spanish lies in Brazil who’s national language is Portuguese. In fact, the only reason I know that there was Portuguese spoken at least once was thanks to closed captioning that pointed out a background conversation happening in the language. The majority of dialogue between the men and those around them is done in Spanish — and through Pope.

Although it doesn’t break the movie, it is an oversight that whether done for storytelling purposes or ease of writing, I can’t overlook myself. It’s similar to the almost exclusive use of Arabic in Zero Dark Thirty in spite of the location being a country where there is a multitude of languages spoken.

Overall, Netflix brings the drama with this film and proves that it will continue to provide cinematic content outside of a movie theater with limited runs in them regardless of what James Cameron has to say. If you’re into stories about brotherhood, heists, and survival then Triple Frontier is a good one to press play on.

 

Triple Frontier
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Overall, Netflix brings the drama with this film and proves that it will continue to provide cinematic content outside of a movie theater with limited runs in them regardless of what James Cameron has to say. If you’re into stories about brotherhood, heists, and survival then Triple Frontier is a good one to press play on.

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