When it was first announced, Triple Frontier was meant to be another collaboration between Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. Early on, names bandied about for starring roles included Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Sean Penn, Will Smith, and Denzel Washington. Later, as Bigelow and Boal (the latter retains a screenplay credit) moved on to make Detroit, Paramount continued to shepherd the project, with other names like Mahershala Ali Casey Affleck, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum, though eventually they made way for Netflix. Now, under the direction of J.C. Chandor, it actually got made and is in theaters, along with streaming on the service. As an added bonus, not only is this a high profile title, it’s actually a damn good one too.
The film is a heist thriller, telling the story of a quartet of former Special Forces operatives who reunite in order to pull off one last job. Masterminded by Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia (Oscar Isaac), he’s planned a heist in a barely populated multi-border section of South America. There’s a very bad man with a lot of money, and he wants it. It takes a bit of convincing, but he ropes in Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis (Ben Affleck), Francisco ‘Catfish’ Morales (Pedro Pascal), as well as brothers William ‘Ironhead’ Miller (Charlie Hunnam) and Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund) to separate this criminal from his funds. Not only are they conflicted about participating in a mission of greed instead of in America’s interests, of course the plan takes an unexpected turn. Suffice to say, survival becomes paramount. Chandor co-wrote with Boal and directs, while the supporting cast includes Adria Arjona, among others. Roman Vasyanov is behind the camera for cinematography, while the score is by Disasterpiece.
Intense and supremely well made, “Triple Frontier” also benefits from nuanced work from Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac. They’re best in show, though we also see Garrett Hedlund, Charlie Hunnam, and Pedro Pascal put forward strong performances as well. For Affleck, it’s totally in his wheelhouse, as he does masculine yet sad as well as anyone in the business. With the trio of Hedlund, Hunnam, and Pascal, we’ve seen similar roles from them before, though they do it better here. Isaac is the one doing something different than usual, and his involvement probably is due in large part to previously working with Chandor on A Most Violent Year. Lucky for us, he came along for the ride and shows us a darker version of his talents.
Would a Bigelow helmed effort probably have been better? Quite possibly. At the same time, what we have here is incredibly satisfying. Chandor, who re-wrote Boal, in addition to directing, makes this a no nonsense affair. It’s engrossing and gritty, showcasing a step up in scale for the filmmaker. If it doesn’t quite rise to the level of high art, it’s still a really entertaining heist flick. A generation ago, this would have found a second life playing on cable forever, where everyone’s father or uncle would discover it and rave to them. Now, it’ll be on the streaming giant’s server, available presumably on demand for all who subscribe, until the end of time.
As you’re reading this, Triple Frontier is available to watch on Netflix. If you like action movies, this one is for you. It mixes aspects of a heist film with that of a thriller, making for a really darkly enjoyable time. Chandor is spreading his wings with something far different than he’s mounted before, while showing that his distinctive style certainly translates to a large scale project. There was already plenty of reasons to be excited about whatever he does next, but this shows that he truly can do whatever the industry presents him with. This is a film well worth heading over to Netflix for ASAP…
Be sure to check out Triple Frontier, now streaming on Netflix!