Simple Review: You know what they say about the best-laid plans!
If you are a regular reader of my scintillating cinema reflections then you are well aware of my Netflix fandom. How could anyone not love having endless movie possibilities delivered to your home for the sole purpose of squandering away precious hours of your limited time on this Earth? In the early days of my Netflix addiction, most of the movies were best enjoyed for their low budget cheesiness and guilt-free indulgence of said movies. Then a funny thing happened to my beloved streaming service, they started making high-quality films even producing an Oscar winner much to Steven Spielberg’s chagrin. This week Netflix delivered a promising new entry to their original movie line-up with the heist action movie Triple Frontier and I was eager to check this one out as it has an interesting cast and story. Did Triple Frontier plan the perfect heist and steal a positive review, or did it fail miserably only to end up stuck at home with a court-ordered ankle bracelet? The only way to find out is to grab your assault rifle, sneak through the window and grab the precious treasure that is the review to this movie! ( Phew I had to work hard for that one)
Triple Frontier starts out as a typical heist movie only to evolve into a struggle for survival as five military veterans face the threat chasing them as well as the threat to their friendship. With a cast that features Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, and Pedro Pascal I had high hopes that this would be one of the good Netflix original movies out there. Without jumping too far ahead in my review, I did find Triple Frontier to be a good movie, especially on Netflix, but a very uneven film. What’s that you say, ” Slow down Movie Psycho, don’t deprive us of your dry wit and fabulous puns by rushing through this review.” Not to worry friends, I would never withhold the exciting build up just to get to the ecstatic release of finishing my review early. I care too much for your gratification to put my lowly needs ahead of yours. What the hell was I writing about? Oh yeah, Triple Frontier sorry I started going down a different path one involving naughtiness. Let’s get back to the plan and see how much of a review we can get out of Triple Frontier before the bad guys start shooting at us!
Director J.C. Chandor has crafted a film that is ambitious in the story it tries to tell but the build-up and tension are unbalanced leading to amazing edge of your seat moments mixed with confusing and awkward moments that make for a herky-jerky watching experience. The movie opens with a tense action piece involving a local drug lord’s goons and the undermanned local police force of a South American country shooting it out. Then the movie seems to bog down into a series of generic recruiting scenes involving Oscar Isaac’s character Pope, as he tries to get former members of his special forces team to help him rid the country of the bad drug lord while stealing his money along the way. I understand the movie needs to establish the relationship of the men and the situation each finds himself in after leaving the military, but it does drag on longer than it needs with the inevitable “will he or won’t he” moment for one character that does decide to go along much to no one’s surprise. While that time is devoted to showing their relationship to each other, it is still unclear what these men were like when they served together and what they went through to make a strong enough bond that they would decide to risk their lives for Pope. If their past had been shown briefly or developed more than these men would have been more interesting when they faced the challenges of the mission going sideways.
When the film does fire on all cylinders it amps up the tension to eleven and there are moments that will have you holding your breath hoping our heroes survive. The actual raid on the drug lords fortified house is one of the best filmed moments in the movie as the camera moves around the house taking in the action as heroes and bad guys enter and exit the frame keeping you guessing what is around the next corner. The scenes flow effortlessly together during the raid culminating in a satisfying conclusion to all of the planning the men did together. My only complaint would be that the drug lord character is underdeveloped so we never get a sense that the threat is as dire as it should be. In fact, during the chaotic raid scenes, I wasn’t sure who was the drug lord and who wasn’t. If the drug lord had been built up more we would have had a deeper investment in the characters achieving their goal, instead, it felt more like, ” oh, ok I guess that is done” type of moment. This doesn’t take away from the excitement of the raid, just some of the emotional impact, however, after the raid is when the movie finds its groove.
Without spoiling the film, after the raid, the escape plan falls apart and the men are forced to leave the country on foot, trying to maintain as much of the loot they took as they can along the way. This is where, for me, the movie becomes more interesting as we watch the men battle the elements, the drug lords men and each other as they try to reach the coast. Instead of being action heroes, the men become human and we can relate to the feelings and decisions each character makes. Oscar Isaac shines as Pope, the star of the movie and the character that struggles to keep his, and the teams, moral compass pointed in the right direction. I enjoy Oscar as an actor and he continues to impress with each film I see him in. Ben Affleck is Tom, whose character is the most difficult to figure out. Ben is monotone in his performance as Tom, and I don’t know if that was what he was going for or if he was just acting the part poorly. We hear characters say what a good man and soldier Tom is, but when Tom begins acting erratically it is unclear why he does and that rests at the feet of Affleck as you never get a sense that Tom is good or bad, he just is the same throughout the movie. Pedro Pascal is another actor I enjoy watching and he is good in this movie, all be it underused. Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund round out the team and they are the weakest actors in the movie with Garrett mercifully given the least lines of dialogue. How that guy is in movies I will never know.
Triple Frontier has beautiful shots of the jungles and mountains the team traverse as they try to escape the growing number of people trying to stop them. There is another great moment as the men are chased in vehicles through a field of tall grass that is used effectively to add another dimension to your typical chase scenes. It is these moments mixed with the men struggling to adhere to their own honor code in a situation that is ever devolving around them that make the movie stand out. I wish the filmmakers had streamlined the beginning of the movie and developed the threat of the drug lord as well as the history of our heroes together so we would have a more emotional connection to their plight. It is frustrating how close this movie is to being an amazing story of heroism in the face of adversity.
We have reached that time when we must hustle aboard our escape craft and get back to the safety at the end of this review. Overall, I enjoyed Triple Frontier and recommend it for a Netflix original movie. It is hit and miss at times but Oscar Isaac is a solid lead actor and the movie picks up steam after the initial heist is over which will keep you interested and on the edge of your seats until the end.
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As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho