As of last October, Netflix began offering press screenings for its original movies. Yet for some reason, this is the first time I’m seeing a Netflix Original Movie on the big screen. The tile seems rather generic, but the term Triple Frontier actually refers to a tri-border area along the junction of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, where the action takes place in this heist crime drama.
When I first saw the trailer, I thought this was directed by one of its stars Ben Affleck as he’s specialized in crime dramas in his directing career. But no, it’s directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost) based on a screenplay he’s written with Mark Boal (Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty). The mastermind of the heist is Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia (Oscar Isaac). We first saw him with his special ops team exchanging gun fire with the people working for powerful drug lord Lorea. I feel the film should’ve opened with Isaac’s character instead of someone else’s. In any case, Pope’s been trying for years to get to Lorea, and for the first time, he’s finally got a credible tip from an informant, Yovana (Adria Arjona).
Instead of alerting FBI or DEA, Pope decided to take this upon himself to bring down Lorea. Well in order to do that, he enlists four of his former Special Forces buddies to join him on this dangerous mission. The film took a bit of time to introduce us to the team: Affleck’s Tom aka Redfly, William aka Ironhead (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund), and Francisco aka Catfish (Pedro Pascal). Affleck’s basically a down-on-his-luck divorcee who’s been shot five times but now couldn’t even sell a condo to save his life. Despite being strapped for cash and concerned for his daughter, Redfly is the hardest for Pope to convince to join the mission… and for good reason.
The trailer tells us it’s a heist movie and this time, it’s the Americans robbing a drug lord… AND they’re doing it for self, not country. Executive-produced by Kathryn Bigelow who’s no stranger to military-minded stories, Triple Frontier is a heist action movie with a moral quandary. If the guy you rob is a criminal, does it make it less of a crime? I like that the script examines these soldiers’ psyche and moral conscience when faced with such a lucrative but self-serving mission.
The heist itself is quite suspenseful, with plenty of scenes during torrential downpours in the South American jungle and rural areas. People who likes action movies would probably expect more shoot-em-up scenes like in Sicario and fans of Netflix’s NARCOS has definitely seen more brutal violence and extreme gore. I’m glad it isn’t the case here. To me, the highlights of the movie are not so much the action itself, but the psychology of the characters, and the moral dialog the team have throughout the harrowing journey. It’s no surprise that money (especially a huge amount of it) has a forcefully-mesmerizing power and this movie is none too subtle to reveal how fast greed could take over even the seemingly prudent person.
I like that the movie isn’t too concerned about plot twist, but focus more on the moral dilemma. It centers on the themes greed and honor, and how those two things are mutually exclusive. At times Triple Frontier feels like an adventure road movie, which I find mostly engaging as they face one hurdle after another. Each of the five ensemble cast is given a moment to shine, some more than others. Casting-wise, since its inception nearly a decade ago, there have been big names attached, from Tom Hanks, Leo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Tom Hardy, Denzel Washington, etc. But I think the group as it is now works pretty well and it doesn’t rely so much on star power (even Affleck is more subdued here), but more on the power of the ensemble. Isaac definitely has leading man charisma and he’s technically the lead of the film more than Affleck. I personally wish Charlie Hunnam gets more work, he’s an underrated actor whose strong performances often gets overlooked (i.e. The Lost City of Z).
Now, there’s a lot of testosterone here featuring five really hunky men. I suppose the story calls for it, and I for one don’t expect every single film to pass the Bechdel Test. That said, it’s a pity that the sole female character that’s crucial to the story, Yovana, is barely given a compelling arc. Even Isaac’s character is a mystery to me. Other than the fact he’s got a personal vendetta against Lorea and that he feels he deserves to be rewarded more for his military service, we don’t really know much about him.
That said, there’s plenty to like about this film and I’m glad I saw it on the big screen. Netflix now offers their original films in Dolby Color Grading and Dolby Atmos so the movie looks and sounds great. The cinematography by Roman Vasyanov is quite stunning, especially when they get to the Andes mountains. The ensemble cast and taut script makes this a journey worth taking. I might even see it again when it’s out on Netflix.
Have you seen TRIPLE FRONTIER? I’d love to hear what you think!
18 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: TRIPLE FRONTIER (2019)”
I like moral dilemmas. Wow, the cast looks great. I’m going to rent this tonight.
Hi Cindy! It’s not out yet until the 13th on Netflix. But yeah, definitely worth a watch. LOVE Isaac and can’t get enough of Charlie Hunnam too 😉
Oh, yes, I see. I just put it on my watchlist.
I’m doing an Auteurs piece on J.C. Chandor in the summer as this is one of the films of his I hope to see as I’ll find a way to see it.
Oh awesome! I’ll check it out later this weekend Steven!
I want to see this one at a theater but it’s only showing at the Uptown theater so I’ll just wait for it on Netflix so I can watch it in Dolby Vision and hear it in Dolby Atmos. 🙂
I only skimmed through your review, I’ll come back and give my thoughts on it next week.
Hmmm I thought they’d be showing this in AMC also. Well yes you can always wait to watch it on your home cinema, Ted. I’m curious to hear what you think, though I have a feeling you’d say there’s not enough action, ahah.
I assume Netflix probably didn’t purchase enough distribution rights at AMC theaters and that’s why only smaller theaters are showing this film nationally.
If the story is compelling and has my attention through out its run time, I won’t complain if it doesn’t contain lots of action. Problems with many action films is that most of them don’t have compelling story and if it doesn’t have enough action to compensate for that then I would definitely complain about its lack of action. For example last summer’s The Equalizer 2 needed more action since the plot was pretty weak.
Great review! I saw the movie a couple of days ago and really liked it, too, although I wished the characters were more developed.
Agreed on Charlie Hunnam, he is a great actor and I would love to see him more often on screen. Personally, I have a soft spot for Garrett Hedlund, and I’m happy to see him in more movies, although I didn’t quite like his character in Triple Frontier. As an actor, he did his part well, the fault was in the script, I think!
Hello! Yes I’m with you about the character development. I mean it doesn’t have to be ALL of them, but for sure Oscar Isaac’s character should be more well-rounded. He’s a big huge mystery to me.
Yay! Glad you like Charlie Hunnam too. I like Hedlund too, though he’s the weakest here. Have you seen him in On The Road? He’s terrific in that.
Yes, he is great. And I think he has some great parts that were overlooked, like Mudbound and Billy Flynn and even On The Road.
I can’t wait to see this one. I just love this cast. Especially good to see Hunnam and Hedlund, both actors I’m liking more and more each time I see them.
Hi Keith! Glad we’re on the same camp in regards to Hunnam. Hedlund is growing on me as an actor (I should like him more as he’s from Minnesota!) but I think he’s a good actor. Can’t wait to hear what you think of this one.
Watched it last night and I really like it. I agree that Isacc’s character should have been given more background since he’s the lead here. And I’m warming up to Charlie Hunnam, he’s good here and I thought he’s good in The Lost City of Z too.
This is a good example of how a film like this got made outside of the big studios’ system. If it’s produced by one of the big studios, they would insist that the film has some sort of villains chasing the heroes and of course it would’ve included bigger action scenes.
Yay! Glad you saw it and liked it, Ted. I really like Charlie Hunnam since Pacific Rim! I know you didn’t like that movie but I thought it was fun and Hunnam was great.
You’re absolutely right, Ted, a big studio tend to embellish the story w/ unnecessary conflict, megalomaniac type villain and bombastic action. I’m glad this film resisted all that and it’s all the better for it.
A really intense movie. Even with its flaws. Nice review.
Hi Dan! Yes intense and thought provoking. Glad you liked it!
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