TRIPLE FRONTIER – Review
Alright troops, ready to move out…to the multiplex. Yeah, it’s military movie time as a hardened group of Special Forces vets team up to tackle another big challenge. So, are they coming to the aid of a tiny village or town threatened by superior foreign mercenaries? Perhaps they’re being brought back together to rescue a group of innocents held captive by terrorists. Does a mad marauder have his grimy mitts on a stolen doomsday device? No, what’s brought the guys back together is green (no, not eco-terrorists), as in money, lots and lots of it. And their ex-military commanders haven’t any knowledge of this, so there aren’t any jets and battleships to offer backup or a fast exit. Those would be very handy when this former squadron must deal with a south of the border (more like south of the Equator) TRIPLE FRONTIER.
After a brief intro to part of the team, we are suddenly dropped into a police raid on a hideout for drug runners in a South American hotspot. Aiding the local authorities is former US Special Forces soldier Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia (Oscar Isaac) as an “advisor’. At the conclusion of the destructive battle (rocket launchers, grenades, and a ton of bullets), the occupants of the now nearly demolished cafe are lined up for the police wagon that will cart them off to jail. But one young woman bolts and Pope chases her through the winding streets to no avail. Later, when he returns to his hotel room, she’s awaiting him. Yovanno (Adria Arjona) is working with Pope, providing him with important intel on local drug kingpin Lorea (she’s part of his home staff). Soon Pope is back in the US, and looking up another SF pal Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis (Ben Affleck), a soon to be divorced dad now struggling as a real estate agent. After recalling old times, Pope tells him of this new mission for themselves. They’ll break into Lorea’s compound/mansion on a Sunday morning (when his family and guards are going to mass in separate shifts), execute him, and haul away all his cash (Pope has been told that “the house is a safe”). An unsure Redfly agrees to join Pope as they meet the three other members of the old crew: pilot ‘Catfish'(Pedro Pascal), ‘Ironhead’ (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund), an aspiring MMA fighter. After a convincing pitch, the four decide to join up with Pope, who insists there will be little danger. And what happens when God hears your plans? Despite their preparations, the five are on the run in this foreign land, dealing with the treacherous elements (the Andes mountains, torrential rains, blistering heat) and trying to avoid the angry locals, while clashing with each other over the loot. Though this mission isn’t impossible, it certainly is not a “sure thing”.
The starring quintet has a good, easy-going chemistry, despite the inclusion of two cinematic “heavy hitters” who command most of the drama. As Pope, Isaac is, once more, the “man with a plan”, the “head honcho” much like his recent role in OPERATION FINALE and his continuing character of Poe Dameron in the new STAR WARS chapters (nine months to the next). He handles the role well, always a compelling screen presence, since we can see him mentally weighing options as his expressive eyes dart about, seeking the least deadly option. Competing for the story’s focus is always interesting Affleck, another veteran of big action franchises (he’s just hung up his bat-cowl and cape), who we first encounter at nearly his lowest ebb (we can almost see his spirit leave his body as another couple declines to sign on the dotted line). Redfly is a man in conflict, wanting to leave his past, but knowing his sharpened skills are the only way to provide for his family (which is drifting away from him). He may have the most complex character arc. Within seconds of finding more loot than he ever hoped to find, an inner lever is pushed, and his morality takes a back seat. Unfortunately, the remaining trio, from lesser action flicks, are mostly one-note. Hunnam (PACIFIC RIM) is a cynical pessimistic, while his kid brother, Hedlund (PAN) is all hair-trigger bravado. Pascal (KINGSMEN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE) as Catfish the “getaway flier” is a fiery realist who’s the one that’s really “sweating the small stuff”. Aside from the “bros”, Ms. Arjona makes quite an impression with her opening scenes with Isaac, particularly in the exhausting street chase (get her an action series).
This is quite a departure for director J.C. Chandor, who co-wrote the script with Mark (ZERO DARK THIRTY) Boal, as he appears to be going for more of a mainstream action film as opposed to the character-driven high concept films like A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, ALL IS LOST, and MARGIN CALL (the last two were indie “art house” hits). The action films he’s emulating are the ones from 25 or 30 years ago with PREDATOR coming first to mind (the tough guys minus the toothy alien trophy hunter), though you can go back to THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and their ilk. There’s little to distinguish this from “big boys with big guns in the jungle” fodder that flood antenna channels like “Charge” and “Grit TV” every weekend (well these fellows spent more time on stages than in gyms). Still, a couple of the action sequences are gripping, mainly the opening drug bust, and a hair-raising helicopter ordeal in the Andes, complete with a “hard landing” (almost comparable to the copter “dog fight’ in the last MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE epic). It is somewhat “telegraphed’ as Catfish voices concerns over the weight, cut then to the “not new” chopper with a net full of bags and luggage (also filled with cash) dangling several yards under its landing gear. We know it’ll have to be cut loose, but will the onboard release switch work (three guesses)? Luckily we’re treated to excellent location work showcasing the varied terrain of Colombia. There’s just an air of missed opportunity floating through the set pieces, as though they considered doing a modern-day take on the themes of greed and obsession (best done in the iconic TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE) and opted instead for big explosions and “shoot-em-ups”. As it is, action movie buffs will enjoy but soon forget (especially with this generic title) TRIPLE FRONTIER.
2.5 Out of 5
TRIPLE FRONTIER opens everywhere and screens exclusively in the St. Louis area at Landmark’s Tivoli Theatre and can be seen on the Netflix streaming app