Based on pedigree alone, Netflix’s heist action thriller Triple Frontier—in theaters for a blink-and-you-missed-it week, and now streaming as of March 13—ought to be way better than it is. The movie boasts a screenplay cowritten by Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow’s collaborator on Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. The gifted J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost, A Most Violent Year)—who writes and directs things that are nuanced and morally complex—directed.
There’s Charlie Hunnam as William “Ironhead” Miller, who is obsessed with counting things like the number of people he’s killed, and spends his time doing PR with active-duty soldiers, warning them against the pitfalls of joining the dangerously swelling ranks of for-profit mercenaries. Pascal is flyboy Francisco “Catfish” Morales, caught in a coke bust but struggling to find ways to support his new kid. Affleck, as sullen as ever, is Tom “Redfly” Davis, the brilliant military man, now a divorced guy reduced to selling condos to support his combative teenage daughter and keep his old truck in gas and oil. Hunnam’s brother Ben is the gung-ho, out-for-adventure type. He is played by the terrific Garrett Hedlund but doesn’t get a groovy nickname, which is odd considering that Ben is an MMA fighter.
The guys pull off the heist, which is enjoyably tense but feels almost dashed-off and impatient, as if the movie has deeper concerns Chandor is anxious to dramatize. But then should come the major action and raw red meat of the movie. How are they going to survive while dragging a couple hundred money-filled duffel bags through the jungle? What’s the endgame when the ex-soldiers begin to lapse into destructive kill mode, not for country but for personal gain? How far will the moviemakers push the parallels of America’s misguided and destructive forays into Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq and its obsession with capitalism?
The well-made but frustrating Triple Frontier has almost everything going for it but depth, focus and gravitas.
The escape scenes of struggling to cross the Andes, and the moments when our “heroes” turn against each other, are more than competent, but they’re just not gripping, despite the best acting efforts of Isaac, Affleck and the rest of the crew. The well-made but frustrating Triple Frontier, which takes its title from the intersection of the borders of Brazil, Peru and Colombia, has almost everything going for it but depth, focus and gravitas.
- The great-looking film features strong performances and plenty of tension
- A pillage-by-numbers script makes it tough to care about the outcome