Movie Review: Triple Frontier
Triple Frontier is about five former U.S. soldiers who are struggling in the civilian world. They are given a chance at a once and a lifetime payday taking out a South American drug cartel leader. When they arrive, they find it's not as easy as it seems to get the money out of the country. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam, Garret Hedlund, and Ben Affleck and is directed and co-written by J.C. Chandor.
Films with overwhelming masculine energy are not new, but I find, especially as I come to know myself, they are far harder for me to engage with. This one in particular as all of the characters seem the same, none of them have a real or unique personality. They're all generic and frankly boring. I hate to single him out, but if Ben Affleck's performance were an assistant holding up a phone with him on the other end reading lines, it would be the same thing. He is phoning in this performance like he's in a commercial for anti-depressants before the medicine kicks in. I have no idea why these men would follow him, he has no charisma whatsoever.
If each character had their distinct personalities at the beginning I would be following the changes in mood and motivation, but as it stands as they are formless and I am confused. Why is the quiet guy suddenly yelling for blood or the goofy younger guy is suddenly criticizing tactics? There was no character development to suggest why there were these shifts. It doesn't help that leadership of the mission shifts several times as Oscar Isaac's motivation, which stays relatively steady throughout planned the mission, but is following Affleck's orders, then they co-lead, then they fight. It's weird and even more confused in the middle of action. I can understand what writers Chandor and Mark Boal were attempting with a plot similar to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but the execution is sorely lacking.
The dialogue of the script is also boiler plate. I could predict nearly every word of it even if I couldn't predict who was going to say it or why because as I explained, the motivations kept shifting. What I do find interesting about the script is that Boal, who has written many of these types of stories about soldiers, especially the soldiers of the War on Terror, is that the soldiers seem very accurate. No bullet is wasted on unnecessary firefights, they move with precision, their plans are based on gathered information that makes the mission have a theoretically high probability of success, these are real soldiers. That's what kept my attention, they aren't having fun killing people, they aren't using a ludicrous amount of gallows humor, they're there to do a job and go home.
On the other side of the coin, back in the civilian world, the struggles they face there are the struggles of real soldiers as well. What does it mean to try and compete for wages? What does it mean to accept the moral relativism of capitalism? Why does our government spend billions on defense and then let its soldiers and former soldiers live in poverty with no firm support? Triple Frontier certainly doesn't advocate for the vigilante or mercenary life style, but these guys don't get out of country empty handed.
This film is in many ways the equivalent of the viral picture from a few months ago. It's that picture of a letter from a medical organization describing that many people have found crowdfunding to be an option to make up the difference of what their insurance is unable (unwilling) to cover. The government trained soldiers to kill and left them with nothing to show for it, so why not go and try to topple a cartel and take a cut of that blood money to pay the mortgage, car loan, and other bills? The film advocates at the beginning for soldiers to make an attempt at civilian life, but then the man who gives that speech has a gun in his hand three days later stalking through a South American jungle so its message is a little muddled there.
I can see the appeal of a film like Triple Frontier for many movie watchers, especially those that enjoy paramilitary justice, but it's not for me. I think you should skip it and not be bored by this dour, uninteresting, unoriginal, uncharismatic caper.