Wednesday, March 13

Triple Frontier Review

By Emery Snyder @leeroy711
Director: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal & Garret Hedlund
Netflix Original – March 13, 2019

A group five of disaffected and financially stressed special ops adrenaline junkies all suffering from varying levels of PTSD get together to pull the ever-fated “one last job.” The plan is to break into the fortress of a ruthless Colombian cartel kingpin and steal his $75 million, then smuggle it out of the country and retire. All goes exactly according to plan, the bad guys all perish, and the soldiers spend the rest of their days sipping rum drinks on some beach without an extradition treaty…. That would be a pretty lousy movie.

The film was co-produced by Kathryne Bigelow and Mark Boal and it was co-written by Boal and Chandor. As expected from a Boal screenplay, the military procedural aspect is the film’s highlight. The stakes are heightened by situation only while characters remain largely stoic and wooden. We are meant to extrapolate the men’s emotions strictly from their backstories, never from their faces. I’m not degrading the film because of this. This type of indifference has its place. And Boal spent time as an embedded reporter in the earlier years after the invasion of Iraq, so I trust that his writing draws from the soldiers he witnessed in combat. Suppression of emotion is seen as a necessary survival tactic here.

So much of how successful a movie like this is to me will always depend on how well the scenes are shot. This film boasts several very well composed shootouts. The spaces are beautifully scoped in 2:11:1 ratio, giving the audience a clear perspective of the action presented. This is something that I always tend to mention because it is something that is so often done poorly. But here, I was glad to be able to easily follow along with each set piece, always having a good sense of where the threat was coming from and where our protagonists were moving towards. Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov has already made a name for himself in action cinema with films like END OF WATCH (’12) and THE WALL (’17) and I see his work continuing to improve.

I was also pleased to find that this, unlike many similar films, seemed to have an acute awareness of the moral ambiguity of what these men were up to. Although the characters were easily able to overcome their individual crises of conscience, the film itself keeps its thumb down on them as they struggle to keep themselves and each other convinced that what they are doing is righteous or even justified. It doesn’t take much to draw the parallels between their actions and the duplicitous nature of our own government’s involvement in Latin America over the past century. This is a moral tale more than anything. The fruits of ill-gotten gains are heavy, and fraught with peril. The money they steal becomes the reason they have such a hard time escaping the region. It weighs on them, both physically and metaphorically.

Unfortunately, this film suffers from some strange pacing issues. I think this is what separates it from better works. The scene from the trailer, that you would expect to be the climax, happens about thirty minutes in. Nothing afterwards manages to live up to the promise of the first act. It actually feels like the stakes dwindle the longer you watch, as does your overall interest. And this is a problem when your running time is over two hours.

In summary, TRIPLE FRONTIER is a well-made and better than average action flick that refreshingly acknowledges the faults of its own heroes. But fall well short of greatness in its overall delivery.

Emery’s Rating
3.25 out of 5 Stars
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