This month marks another major release from Netflix, which is going relatively unnoticed.
Not to say that this movie, Ben Affleck’s latest action thriller, “Triple Frontier,” is a landmark of cinema or anything, but it is the kind of solid, R-rated actioner that would have been a box-office success and a nice balance to the kids movies and superhero flicks dominating the relatively few screens we have access to here on the peninsula.
I go back and forth on Netflix. I’m glad they are producing quality content and it certainly is convenient, but there’s definitely a cost to the moviegoing experience. I would have liked to see “Triple Frontier” on the big screen. It would have made the experience much more impressive and affecting. As it is, the movie is good, but confined to the small screen, I’m afraid it’s destined to be forgotten.
Oscar Isaac is Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia, an ex-soldier and current military contractor working with the Bolivian government to try and catch one of the most vicious cartel leaders in the country. When a key piece of information — the location of the criminal’s hideout and, more importantly, his stash of vast wealth, is revealed, Pope heads to the states to recruit a group of his old colleagues to go in and get the man and the money.
Affleck plays reluctant strategist Redfly Davis, while the rest of the team is filled out by Charlie Hunnam as Bill Miller, Garrett Hedlund as Bill’s brother and MMA fighter, Ben, and Pedro Pascal as pilot Francisco “Catfish” Morales. Originally, the plan is for the Americans to assist the Bolivian army in seizing the funds for a fee. But, as happens in cases like this, greed begins to take over. The payout that each man has the potential to receive is substantial but, as Pope reasons, why let the Army take the majority of the money. He has no faith they won’t be corrupted by it, so why not take it all and use it for good?
You know what they say about the road to hell? This film embodies that aphorism perfectly. When our heroes get to the climax of the first part of their mission, they discover that the $75 million they were expecting was a serious underestimate. The house contains untold cash — hundreds of millions, lining the interior of each wall of the mansion.
The first crack in the plan happens when the men decide to take extra time in order to grab as much of the cash as they can. They pile $250 million into duffels and race to their awaiting transport helicopter, having to shoot their way out, creating havoc that was never intended. Then the chopper they’ve bought cannot handle the weight of the extra money, causing a crash in the Andes. One thing after another goes wrong and the one by one the good intentions are washed away in blood and fire. These are good men, but even good men struggle to retain their humanity when faced with circumstances such as these.
There’s a lot going on here underneath the typical shoot-‘em-up structure that director J.C. Chandor employs. Not only do we deal with the corrupting influence of the money, but overlaid is the desperation and ennui felt by these soldiers who are no longer in the position they were so highly trained for. This is a standard theme in films about warriors during peacetime. See “First Blood” for a good example of the same kind of internal conflict.
“Triple Frontier” also owes a debt to both Sam Raimi’s underrated “A Simple Plan” which sees Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton unravel under similar financial pressure, and David O. Russell’s Iraq War heist film, “Three Kings.” Both of these films are darker and more interesting that “Triple” ends up being, but they all are cut from the same cloth.
The acting and writing are both fine in the film, without any particular gaps, though without anything particularly distinguishing, either. The cinematography is excellent, however, and Chandor has proved that he knows how to shoot action. The film is kind of a slow burn, in some ways. As the trouble for our heroes just keeps ratcheting up, their task becoming more and more impossible as they approach the finale.
“Triple Frontier” is, in some ways, the perfect kind of movie to come out on TV, despite the fact that I wanted to see it in theaters. There’s enough going on that you don’t feel like you’re completely wasting your time, but enough action and competent filmmaking to make it imminently rewatchable. Grade: B
“Triple Frontier” is rated R for language and violence throughout.
• By CHRIS JENNESS, Peninsula Clarion