James Reviews: 'Triple Frontier'
A solid heist flick featuring a strong quintet of stars, and some unexpected turns.
With a cast of Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam, and Pedro Pascal, all playing former Delta Force ops, the movie screams action movie bravado. What's promised is an action packed heist movie with firefights, chases, and dangerous roadblocks. What follows is a heist movie that focuses more on the getaway than the steal, and the gradual unraveling of the group.
The movie starts off with a sequence showing Santiago "Pope" Garcia (Isaac) aiding local authorities with a drug raid in Colombia. Yovanna, an informant, reveals that kingpin Lorea is in a remote house in the jungle with $75 million in cash. In exchange for this information, Pope agrees to smuggle her out of the country. With this objective in mind, he begins recruiting his former task force members; Tom "Redfly" Davis (Affleck), William "Ironhead" Miller (Hunnam), Ben “Benny” Miller (Hedlund), and Francisco "Catfish" Morales (Pascal). Once they arrive in the jungle, they uncover a lot more than what they bargained for and now have to trek, fight, and scavenge across South America to make it out alive.
Most heist films will focus on the buildup to the robbery, and leave any potential consequences for the third act or a sequel. In this movies' case, the stealing of the money is only half the robbery, the getaway is what it focuses its attention on. Everywhere the men go, a problem arises, when you think they're in the clear, or that their troubles are behind them, conflict rears its ugly head.
Their situation is only made worse by Redfly's actions. A divorced, borderline alcoholic with money issues, he stands to loss the most if the heist goes wrong. When more than $75 million is discovered in the house, he pushes the group to go overtime to get it all. He's the first to threaten people into helping them, he's hostile towards Yovanna, and he's quick to start the shooting. Redfly is the closest to becoming the villain of the story, despite the movie having already established that he's not evil, just desperate. This is a performance that is elevated by Ben Affleck, who, after going through a bit of a rough patch in both his personal and professional life, brings a sense of authenticity to the role.
Oscar Isaac puts on a captivating display of muscle and reason as Pope, a leader both on and off the battlefield, he drives the group to accomplish the heist, feeling that they are entitled to such an amount as reward for their prolific careers. Unlike Redfly, however, he's willing to play it safe, keep to a list of rules, and get out unscathed, causing a clash of interest within the ranks. Every time Redfly wants to go the extra mile, or question his leadership, Pope has to put his foot down and remind him to stick to the plan. It makes for some dynamic chemistry, as they push for the same goal with different methods.
While Garret Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam, and Pedro Pascal make do of what they're given to work with, none of them make an attempt to stand out. Other than spouting generic military movie jargon - "I didn't sign up for this", "This is not how we do things", etc. - their characters are nothing to write home about. The only one who does make an attempt to separate himself from the others is Hunnam, who tries to make Ironhead the pacifist or selfless one of the lot, but it doesn't kick in until once they cross the Andes.
The action has no particular flavour to it, perfectly content to give us typically military firefights that can be found in any other movie of the genre. The fight in the Andes is notable, but only for a story event that won't be spoiled in this review. There's also the raid at the very beginning, and a chase near the end, but other than that, action isn't an appropriate genre to describe this movie.
Researching this film, it's evident that director J.C. Chandor Known, for making art cinema and slow-burn stories, is a bit out of his element with this movie. Initially, Kathryn Bigelow was meant to helm the project, back when Paramount had the rights and the lead roles consisted of Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp. Knowing her history of telling intense, powerful dramas, and having the unique cinematography to match, it's likely she would have delivered a more captivating heist film.
Triple Frontier isn't the high-octane action thriller some may be hoping for, firefights are separated by long moments of hiking through the jungle, and they are swift and somewhat tame. Although, what it does has to offer is an adventurous drama, filled with character, and a surprisingly intense final chase sequence.
Rating: 6/10 - Solid