FlixChatter Review: TRIPLE FRONTIER (2019)

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!

Five for the Fifth: DECEMBER 2014 Edition

FiveForFifth2014holiday

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

Since this is the last FFTF of the year and award season has kicked into high gear, the questions will revolve around film awards and your choices of ‘best of’ or favorite in both films and TV. So let’s get started, shall we?

1. First off, I’m going to talk about A Most Violent Year, which was recently voted Best Picture by The National Board of Review. The NBR president Annie Schulhof was quoted as saying “‘A Most Violent Year’ is an exhilarating crime drama with a compelling story, outstanding performances and an elegant cinematic style,” per LA Times. I posted the trailer in the last Five for the Fifth post and it certainly does look VERY good, but also very intense. NBR also awarded its stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in Best Actor and Actress category respectively, two extremely talented actors who are fellow Juilliard graduates.

AMostViolentYear

I was quite surprised by this pick, but at the same time, not really. I mean, sure it hasn’t gained as much traction as other films such as Birdman, Boyhood or The Imitation Game, but writer/director J.C. Chandor was an Oscar nominee for Margin Call so this could very well be Oscar’s dark horse. I read somewhere that this film is like Wall Street meets Scarface, hmmm I probably just rent this later as it might be way too violent for me.

So what’s your thought on MBR’s pick of Best Picture? Do you predict it’ll be nominated for Oscar too?

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2. You might not know who she is yet, but I’ve mentioned Gugu Mbatha-Raw quite a few times in my blog based on her two excellent performances I saw this year in Belle and Beyond the Lights. In fact, I’d be sorely disappointed if she didn’t get at least a nomination for BAFTA’s Orange Rising Star Award next year, I mean she should have won one already by now.

I have only heard of her prior to this year from the JJ Abrams’ show Undercover that was canceled pretty quickly. I haven’t seen a single episode but I’d have watched it for Gugu! In fact, she makes my Honorable Mention on my list of 10 Actresses I’d Watch in Practically Anything.

So which actor/actress you’ve never seen prior to 2014 who left a huge impression on you this year?

3. Ok so the ‘Best of’ lists have started to pop up and though I’m still not sure what my Top 10 would look like, there is at least a few that I know WILL make the list: Belle, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men Days of Future Past.

Say what you will about Wolverine but Xavier + Magneto are what the X-Men prequels are all about for me
Xavier + Magneto are what the X-Men prequels are all about for me

Now my Top 10 is a personal one as it’s usually comprised of films that I both admire AND enjoy watching that I’d buy the Blu-ray, not something I appreciate but won’t ever want to see again. So it’s not always the most critically-acclaimed films out there, though these three are actually on Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 so far.

So I’m curious, tell me at least ONE film that surely will end up on your Top 10 of the year?
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4. Now switching gears to those that won’t make your Top 10 list, unless it’s the WORST or Most Disappointing list of the year. I was actually making a list of ‘movies everyone seem to love that leave me cold’ from classic to contemporary movies. I’m excluding 2014 films as the one film that disappointed me most hasn’t even opened yet in most cities. But if I were to include it, WILD would make the list as it just bored me to tears.

WildMovieI was flabbergasted how high the rating is for that one and the fact that it’s been taunted as an Oscar contender just boggles my mind.

Now I’m curious which critically-acclaimed 2014 movie you didn’t enjoy or disappointed you most?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Mark from Three Rows Back!

ThreeRowsBack

Inspired by yesterday’s announcement of SPECTRE, Mark has Bond on his mind. Now this topic has been discussed before even though Daniel Craig is still under contract to do one more Bond film after Spectre. I’ve listed some of my – and my pal Ted’s – choices of who we’d like to say play 007, but hey, there’s no reason why we can’t talk about it again. Here’s what Mark’s idea of who he thinks should be considered:

I would rule out a Yank to play the part; Bond is quintessentially British.

Much as I liked him, I would have discounted Tom Hardy until I saw him in ‘Locke;’ an underrated performance full of range in my book, so he would be right up there for me. I’ve always loved Idris Elba too; that guy hasn’t found his true calling yet and Bond could well be it.

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Tom & Idris in Rocknrolla!

I LOVE both Hardy and Elba (hey both are Rocknrolla alums!), but I give Elba the edge as he’s tall. I dunno, I kind of prefer Bond to be at least 6 feet tall. Nothing against Craig as he does a great job in the role, but I wish the next Bond actor would be tower above most people. Heck I don’t care what race, I mean I think the world is ready for a Black Bond (I wanted Colin Salmon as Bond at one point), heck even Asian Bond, someone like British/Korean actor Daniel Henney who’s 6’2″ and is a decent actor. As for the argument that Bond actor should be British, I can see that and I have no problem with that though for me, if another non-Brit can pull off a British accent convincingly, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I did put Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on my wish list.

So, Mark [and I] would like to know … who would you like to see replace Craig after he hangs up his Walter PPK?


Well, that’s it for the last Five for the Fifth edition of the year! Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀