There has been no shortage of heist films over the past few years and they have pretty much covered all the bases. We’ve seen widows, hillbillies, magicians, even the elderly all set out to for that one big score. The new Netflix Original “Triple Frontier” gives us a different type of heist movie yet one that doesn’t stray too far from its genre roots.
“Triple Frontier” had me at its cast. Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, and Garrett Hedlund are all actors I throughly enjoy. I wasn’t as familiar with Pedro Pascal but he’s a good addition to this group. The five play old special ops buddies who reunite to pull off a seemingly quick and easy heist. Of course it wouldn’t be much of a movie if the job was easy.
J.C. Chandor directs and co-writes the script along with Mark Boal. They offer up characters who aren’t just out for a quick buck. They are real-world people struggling to make a living after their military service. Tom (Affleck) is a realtor who can’t afford to send his daughter to college. William (Hunnam) does low paying motivational speeches for troubled vets. Ben (Hedlund) makes what money he can in warehouse mixed martial arts fights. Francisco (Pascal) faces an upcoming court date for transporting drugs.
Santiago (Isaac) is only one still semi-working in the field. He’s a private military consultant assisting the Colombian government in their war against the drug gangs. He learns through an informant that a local kingpin is holed up in a remote safe house with millions of dollars in drug money. Santiago travels back to America to recruit his old squadmates to help him take out the kingpin and grab the money for themselves.
At first the band is reluctant to get back together, especially Tom. But Santiago knows the situations of his cash-strapped pals and his sales pitch is good. He convinces the team to get back together for the proverbial ‘one last mission’ but this one isn’t for their government or their country. This one of for them and their future. Or so it seems.
For me these characters are a real strength of the film and the motivations that drive them are compelling. I do wish Chandor and Boal would have spent a little more time on their individual stories, but once the five are together their chemistry is undeniable. So many big names have been attached to the movie – Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Tom Hardy, Mahershala Ali, Mark Wahlberg, Will Smith, among others. That’s a lot of talent but I still wouldn’t change a thing. The cast is spot-on top to bottom (keep an eye on Hunnam. I like him more with each performance).
Another strength is Roman Vasyanov’s cinematography. Hawaii and Columbia provide the beautiful and rugged vistas for him to capture and he shows a keen eye for shooting action sequences. They are tense and thrilling but also shot in a way that reflects conscience. What does that mean? This isn’t a full-throttle 80’s style action picture. There’s no thrill or enjoyment in the gunplay. But there is real conflict and consequence. In fact the violence is never gratuitous and Chandor’s camera often focuses on the shooter’s face instead of the bloody results.
It should be said that “Triple Frontier” doesn’t paint its characters out to be heroes. They’re flawed, damaged, and conflicted men wrestling with their own moral justifications for what they are doing. Some of their actions clearly originate from a deeper personal anguish, something I wish the film delved deeper into. Still, their chemistry is authentic and palpable, the story is full of tension, and just when you think you have it figured out it throws an unexpected but welcomed curveball.
VERDICT – 4 STARS