After an extraordinarily troubled pre-production and subsequent Netflix distribution, Triple Frontier may have been best left in the drawer. The action thriller follows five ex-special forces friends who reunite for an unsanctioned robbery of a Colombian drug lord. While less explicitly pro-America and pro-military than the Sicario franchise, it expects its audience to support its protagonists’ violence and avarice by virtue of the fact that the other guy is a faceless cartel baddie. The result is a messy, maddening saga of human foibles whose inevitable outcome is welcome relief.
The actors cannot be criticised, but they are given so little to develop outside their present situation that there is little distinguishing each performance. That said, Pedro Pascal’s verve as a disgraced helicopter pilot makes the most of the expletive-laden dialogue and Oscar Isaac’s natural magnetism does more work than the script does to make his ex-intelligence officer’s motivation compelling.
Unfortunately the plot is a difficult sell, and Triple Frontier’s uneven tone highlights its worst points. The hardships and threats encountered by the crew are almost entirely self-inflicted through their own hubris, evaporating any sympathy that the script and actors try so hard to convey. Indeed the film may have been stronger had it not over-emphasised the protagonists’ unsupported righteousness – the spiralling disaster of human weakness could have produced a wicked satire. Likewise, last week’s breaking news results in a genuine, if unintentional, laugh as a greed-stricken, “dad-bod” sporting Ben Affleck exults that he can buy his daughters into Harvard through his thievery.
Nothing offered by Triple Frontier is new to its genre, unless it is the exceptional meaninglessness of its central conflict that refuses to justify the stakes it begs for. Its talented cast is wasted in a nasty, greed-glorifying tale that motors to the foolish quest’s only logical conclusion.
CAST: Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal
DIRECTOR: J.C. Chandor
WRITERS: Mark Boal, J.C. Chandor
SYNOPSIS: After a tip from an informant desperate to leave Colombia, a group of ex-special forces friends reunite to rob a drug lord for their own personal gain.