“Triple Frontier”, which was released on Nexflix yesterday, is fairly watchable but not that satisfying on the whole. While often gritty and intense as required, the movie does not bring anything particularly new to its genre territory, and it is often hampered by its several weak aspects including uneven narrative pacing and thin characterization. Although I was entertained to some degree while watching it at last night, it is not distinctive enough to rise above many other similar action thriller films out there, and it did not leave much impression on me in the end despite the considerable efforts from its cast and crew members.
At the beginning, we meet Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaacs), a military guy who has worked for a private military outfit in Brazil. The opening sequence, which is unfolded in a rural border region among Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina (That is where the title of the movie comes from, by the way), shows him and a group of local police squad members attempting a raid on a certain spot where a bunch of local drug organization members are operating, and we are not so surprised when the situation becomes quite tense and perilous with lots of bullets and explosions shortly after Santiago and his men confront their targets.
Santiago has pursued the elusive leader of the drug organization for years, and, shortly after the raid, he comes to learn of that drug lord’s whereabouts through a young woman named Yovanna (Adria Arjona), who has been his informant and also desperately wants to get out of the drug organization along with her dear brother. After learning from Yovanna that the drug lord in question has a huge amount of money stashed inside his hideout which is located somewhere in the border region, Santiago decides to not only eliminate him but also steal his money, and Yovanna agrees to assist Santiago because he promises her money and freedom for her and her brother.
Santiago subsequently approaches to his four colleagues, and they are William “Ironhead” Miller (Charlie Hunnam), who has recently worked as a motivation speaker for soldiers; Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund), who is William’s younger brother and is currently a mixed martial art (MMA) fighter; Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pedro Pascal), a skillful pilot whose license is recently revoked for some serious transgression; and Tom “Redfly” Davis (Ben Affleck), who is Santiago’s close friend/comrade. As a guy who has been trying to be content with the less eventful life of a plain realtor since his retirement, Tom is understandably reluctant at first, but he agrees to join his colleagues because he really needs the money to support his ex-wife and daughter and, above all, he cannot resist another possible chance for thrill and excitement.
As observing how these five guys prepare for their plan step by step, the movie slowly dials up the level of tension, and we accordingly get a number of well-made scenes such as the one where Santiago and his comrades carefully go through their reconnaissance process around their target’s hideout. It may be easy to get inside that place, but they must do everything necessary for their operation within a short period of time, and, as emphasized by Tom at one point, there is no police or government agency to protect them this time.
Not so surprisingly, they eventually find themselves in a situation far complicated than expected, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that they later come to face a series of troubles due to a few unwise decisions. For example, they should have stuck to their original plan from the start, and they also should have been practical about how much they were going to steal from their target.
During its second half, the movie tries to build up its narrative momentum further as its main characters try to get away with what they manage to steal, but the screenplay by director J. C. Chandor and his co-writer Mark Boal does not provide much human depth to its story and characters, and it merely lurches from one predictable plot point to another while not generating much interest for us. As being more or less than broad genre elements, the main characters in the film are not that compelling enough to engage us, and we become rather distant to their circumstance while not caring much about what will happen to them in the end.
Anyway, the main performers of the movie are solid as filling their respective positions as demanded. While Oscar Isaac, who previously collaborated with Chandor in “A Most Violent Yea” (2014), is dependable as usual, Ben Affleck stoically holds the ground with Issac, and Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, and Adria Arjona are well-cast in their supporting roles. I especially enjoyed how Hunnam and Hedlund interact well with each other besides looking quite similar to each other, and it is rather amazing that nobody thought of casting them as brothers before.
In conclusion, “Triple Frontier” is not a total waste of time at all, so I will not stop you from watching it if you have free time to spend, but I have to remind you that it is several steps down from Chandor’s previous works such as “Margin Call” (2011) and “All Is Lost” (2013), which was incidentally one of my best 10 films of 2013. Sure, it is competent in technical aspects, but the movie is not so distinguished in terms of story and characters, and you will probably not remember a lot from it once it is over.