Triple Frontier, 2019.
Directed by J.C. Chandor.
Starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, Garrett Hedlund, Adria Arjona, Sheila Vand and Reynaldo Gallegos.
Struggling to make ends meet, former special ops soldiers reunite for a high-stakes heist: stealing $75 million from a South American drug lord.
Triple Frontier assembles an impressive group of actors to steal a near unimaginable amount of money while also making a vague attempt at conveying a message about wealth and greed. Although it does so heavy-handedly, it feels more like the message is ‘the real pay out is the journey along the way’ at times, which lessens the impact that the action thriller should have. Considering the talent in the group, it’s surprising that they aren’t given a meatier subtext to dive into and struggle with as soldiers after fortune. They all give interesting performances, but they aren’t too dissimilar from previous roles.
The prime example is Charlie Hunnam. It’s hard not to compare his introduction to his performance of tortured gangster, Jax Teller, in Sons of Anarchy. The way he discusses the psychological effects of being a soldier feels incredibly similar to the biker king’s monologues in the FX series. But casting Garrett Hedlund as his literal brother in arms is a stroke of genius as the two are frequently mixed up – and the dynamic between the two feels believable. Whereas Oscar Isaac’s introduction working as part of a police operation is just a taster of the action we can expect. It’s generic to begin with, and doesn’t really offer any unique takes on the action/thriller genre. The only scene that genuinely felt tense is when the squad are at the bottom of a rocky mountain but are pinned down by gunmen at the top. By the end of that scene it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine how they’re going to even succeed.
There are the obligatory lines of dialogue to give us some minor character development and some personal stakes in the mission, but it doesn’t give us anything groundbreaking in terms of a particular story. Ben Affleck’s character is the only one who has a genuine arc that feels natural and paid off by the end of the two hour run time. And while it’s great to see Affleck on form, he does take over quite a lot leaving not much else for the rest of the team to do with their talents. There’s a mission, they all need the money, and it’s an excuse to shoot at bad guys. Weirdly, this is also a very good video game movie, not that it’s based on anything in particular, but it bears a resemblance to Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
The game features a squad of elite soldiers who are dropped into Bolivia to take out a drug lord who controls everything. And although Triple Frontier’s team aren’t part of any intelligence agency, they’re all ex-forces who want the gang leader dead as much as they want the money. At times when they’re in vehicle chases, or scoping out a place before storming in, it feels incredibly formulaic in the same way that a game like Wildlands is played. Just to be clear, that isn’t a criticism in the slightest. And watching it through that mindset actually works a treat.
Triple Frontier is an incredibly masculine heist movie, with no attempt at giving one of two women in the supporting cast much development aside from looking out for her brother. It could be argued that it doesn’t need to give anyone else screen time as the focus is obviously the team – but it’s disappointing that no one else is really given any development at all. We never even fully see why the villain of the film actually deserves his fate, aside from Oscar Isaac repeatedly telling us how long he’s been hunting him. Disappointingly, Pedro Pascal is vastly underused here too – and he isn’t given much chance to shine while Ben Affleck’s moody team leader muscles his way to the forefront of the audience’s focus.
It isn’t exactly a visual treat either – it’s quite drab and dark. But realistically, that isn’t the selling point of the film. There are some messages about greed and the sway that such an unimaginable amount of money could have while also examining the moral consequences of what they’re attempting, especially when it all seems to be going too smoothly. One particular moment later on forces them to confront their actions when they’re very quickly faced with how far they’d go for their riches.
If you’re looking for a relatively straightforward action thriller with a great cast that work well together on screen – then Triple Frontier is exactly the movie you need. But don’t go in expecting something with genuine heart or a new intriguing take on the action genre.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★