Triple Frontier, from Netflix, expands this weekend to theaters and will release on the streaming platform on Wednesday, March 13. The story is not as strong as the cast is, while the cinematography keeps us interested in the film’s themes.
There’s a joke in Die Hard between John McClane and Al Powell which ends with the statement, “in my youth.” Sometimes, I feel like the action films released today could benefit from this reference point.
Yes, I have seen better films than Triple Frontier from Netflix. And, yes, the folks behind the camera have all done better work. In defense of J. C. Chandor’s (A Most Violent Year) latest film, the cast performs admirably for a film that has had such a troubled production history.
Ben Affleck as Tom Davis, leads a cast of tried and true military veterans. A perennial favorite of Chandor’s, Oscar Isaac stars as Santiago Garcia. Both men have seen a lot of action in their careers. Davis is on the verge of a family break up while Garcia has been putting together a plan that could yield a fortune. Charlie Hunnam, Garett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal round out the crew.
The story by Academy Award winner Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Detroit) is a fairly straight forward recon film. The opening frames serve to remind us of the violence that permeates South and Central America as Garcia leads a police raid. The result of the raid allows Garcia to gain the intel he needs, but also starts an unessential character thread.
Once he is stateside, he engages his old crew, serving them up a reconnaissance mission. Davis, whose family is severely on the rocks initially, refuses to join the mission. He eventually reconsiders when their old team gets back together.
Their target is drug lord Gabriel Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos), who is worth a fortune. There is some hemming and hawing between the crew, but they eventually decide to embark on Garcia’s plan to raid the drug leaders’ house and take with them as much cash as they can.
Yes, Triple Frontier is a heist film. It felt very much like an overcooked Three Kings. In fact, I had to chuckle because Oscar Isaac has a ‘George Clooney’ moment early in the film. The screenplay by Boal and Chandor also incorporates elements from Mimi Leder’s The Peacemaker.
The characters feel like they were stuck in between Michael Caine’s The Italian Job and Mark Wahlberg’s The Italian Job. And that’s the struggle with this particular story: none of the elements really stick together very well and when they do, they don’t hold up.
Even though the performances are strong, none of them can really support the story, what little there is. The story suffers from predictability as Boal and Chandor try to balance moral values against a heist and then ultimately, survival.
Triple Frontier’s technical achievements do bear mentioning, especially in the cinematography department. Roman Vasyanov, who lensed End of Watch, Suicide Squad and Bright for David Ayer and The Wall for Doug Liman certainly has a good breadth of experience with military-action shots as well as dramatic beats. His use of the wide frame really opened the story up to the action.
In a limited theatrical run starting today and streaming on Netflix starting March 13, Triple Frontier has a terrific cast that tries to support a roughshod narrative. If you’re into the visual look of a film, this should be right up your alley. The action set pieces are well staged, but they drag on and can’t make up for the lack of the plot’s indecisiveness.