REVIEW: TRIPLE FRONTIER Serves Up Solid Action While Making You Think at the Same Time (Reprint)

(Original Publication Date: March 24th, 2019) By: John M Jerva

STARRING: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal



OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Former Special Forces operatives reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers, these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for themselves instead of the country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.


THE REVIEW: TRIPLE FRONTIER is a curious movie in light as it has taken a long winding path to reach the screen in the version that we see today on Netflix. Originally, the film was supposed to be helmed by Kathryn Bigelow as a follow up to her immense hit ZERO DARK THIRTY but it never happened and the movie was headed for certain purgatory. Along with Bigelow several names were attached to the project as well like Tom Hardy,  Mahershala Ali and Channing Tatum all coming and going and even stars Ben Affleck and Charlie Hunnam left the film at an earlier stage only to rejoin it later. With all the delays and setbacks, Paramount Pictures, who was developing the movie dropped it like a bad habit only for Netflix to swoop in and pick it up to save the day and rightfully so as it is a solid heist thriller that is a taut and tension filled experiment in showcasing the plights of former soldiers looking for their place in the world and the effects of greed.


As the story starts out, we are introduced to  Pope (Oscar Isaac), a former special forces operative who now works as an adviser to local authorities who are trying to bring down a major player in the drug cartels named Lorea who rules a South American country with an iron hand. Pope has been trying for three years to nab his men but to no avail and frustrated, he comes up with a plan to take out Lorea while getting something for himself at the same time. Pope summons four of his spec ops brothers including Tom “Redfly” Thomas (Ben Affleck), William “Ironhead” Miller (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund) along with Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pedro Pascal) to assist him in a heist that will take out Lorea and confiscate millions of his fortune at the same time. All five men are trying to make ends meet after their careers as elite U.S. soldiers has ended and they feel that they deserve they’re just dos for putting their lives on the line in defense of their country. At first the four other members shoot down Pope’s plan but eventually turn around. What follows next is a thrilling mission that slowly spirals out of control testing the limits of these tier one operators.


TRIPLE FRONTIER was directed by J.C. Chandor who is best known for dramatic films like A MOST VIOLENT YEAR and here he tackles an action-thriller that is both exciting and meaty in substance at the same time. This isn’t your average heist thriller in that it makes you think and you will definitely ponder the ramifications of the characters’ actions once the credits role. The film is an ensemble piece as each man works off the other and no one is the real star of the film as they are all a sum of a great whole. Affleck and Isaac do get most of the screen time but the others all have their moments to shine as well. Affleck brings his usual gravitas to his role as Redfly while Isaac is spot on as Pope. Hunnam, who I enjoyed in PACIFIC RIM, brings a level of raw grit to his portrayal of Ironhead. Hedlund and Pascal bring up the rear and solidify the back end to a great cast. It’s not to say that each man has their flaws. They are not perfect and certainly become victims of their situation. Affleck especially is damaged and you can tell as the movie goes on that he is probably the one member of the group who has the most issues. Redfly is a sad character as he is a man that was once more important in the scope of the world who has been reduced to selling condos to yuppies. Chandor who wrote the screenplay along with Mark Boal, do their best to show us the plight of servicemen who still need a war to fight. 


The main highlight of TRIPLE FRONTIER, is the heist scene itself as our five man team descend upon Lorea’s estate to execute their plan. The scene is without a doubt the apex of the movie and Chandor makes it with less flair and more realism. It’s not a spoiler to mention that everything does not go according to plan and it is this very scene that sets the course for the rest of the film. Chandor forgoes the usual bombastic blockbuster action scene route and instead gives us a tight, and surgically intricate style in execution. You get to see these men at their best as they systematically snake through the house and adapt to everything that changes once the wheels go off the road. It is here that the problems arise and we see how it affects each and every one of them.


The rest of the movie highlights our protagonists’ attempt to escape the country, loot in hand, and lets just say that Murphy’s Law is in full effect here as one thing after another goes drastically belly up. In terms of action, we are treated to a thrilling helicopter crash and topped off with a tension coiled car chase. TRIPLE FRONTIER isn’t as much an action film as it is more of a thrilling drama but the action we do have is on display in full effect and it is the icing on the cake of a well made film. 


This is a spoiler free review for the most part but I will say that there is a strong Holy Sh!t moment in the last act that will certainly have audience members talking and I tip my cap to Chandor and company for not playing it safe in terms of the fate of the characters especially one in particular. It certainly made me gasp and it goes to show you that this isn’t your average everyday action-thriller. 

A lot has been made of Netflix recently and whether or not films that premiere on streaming services qualify for Oscars and such but I do believe that a film should stand on its own strengths and not be judged on whether it plays on the big screen or not. This is without a doubt, one of Netflix’s best film to date and I would rank it up there along with any other movie that hits your local multiplex. Speaking as a person who doesn’t have the funds to always go out to the movies I enjoy the fact that I can see some of these films at home in the comfort of my own surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the theater experience but sometimes you just want to be comfy as well. TRIPLE FRONTIER bodes well for the future of films on the small screen. 

To sum it all up, TRIPLE FRONTIER is a tight and taut thriller that examines the effects that greed has on people and also makes you think about the problems that our men and women go through once their wars are over. It does overstay its welcome a little with its running time but it never veers off course and it gives both action fans and the regular viewer something to take with them once it is over. Affleck and company are solid and deliver dramatic performances while never selling out on the material. It is heist thriller that makes you think at the same time and it certainly is a smart movie that never sells out and proves that these types of movies are still in existence. If anything, it is worth your time. 


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