Triple Frontier review Ben Affleck Garrett Hedlund Charlie Hunnam

Year: 2019
Director(s): J.C. Chandor
Writer(s): Mark Boal, J.C. Chandor
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.11:1
Rating: R
Digital, Color, 125 mins

Synopsis: Loyalties are tested when five former special forces operatives reunite to steal a drug lord’s fortune, unleashing a chain of unintended consequences. (Source)

Triple Frontier positions itself as a “one last job” kinda film, but in reality, it’s so much more. Without spoiling the many twists and turns, let’s just say that director J.C. Chandor and writer Mark Boal have delivered a hard-edged heist that prizes action as much as consequence. In essence, the story is a blend of desperation, hard luck and brotherhood, one that is both critical yet empathetic of its complex characters. Even further, the impeccable casting ensures that everything is deeply rooted in primal emotion and relatable stakes. With a plot that relishes in the fact that anything that can go wrong, Chandor explores collateral damage and a never-ending cycle of violence with real weight, grit and purpose.

After spending a few years embedded in Columbia, Pope (Oscar Isaac), an ex-special forces operative turned merc, stumbles unto the ultimate score. Together with an informant, he’s tracked down an elusive, wealthy drug lord named Lorea. Since Lorea doesn’t trust anyone, his fortune is hidden within his home and secluded deep in the jungle. Unable to pass up an opportunity, Pope floats an irresistible bargain to his most trusted ex-Army mates, each of whom are retired but unable to acclimate to civilian life. They’ll steal Lorea’s money and kill him, setting up their families for life and ridding the country of one of its most dangerous predators. Despite meticulous planning, unforeseen challenges will test the men’s loyalty and everything they stand for.

Triple Frontier review Ben Affleck

What’s immediately noticeable, is that the film is rooted in piercing personal motivations. Each character on the team is coping with the effects of past military service while struggling within the margins. Because of this, it’s easy to buy in to their impulses despite spiraling moral transgressions. Chandor leans into this unsettling disconnect, luring us in with brotherhood, even as tension builds alongside it. Before we realize, unsaid strain and devastation are too much to bear. All of this is in service to a midway twist that refocuses what the story has been about. It’s here where Chandor’s perspective and focus feels really thrives and pays off. As the characters begin to reevaluate what they’ve done amidst some irreversible consequences, the story goes beyond its tropes to illuminate dark truths and harrowing social imbalances.

Tonally, the film shifts and transforms without us noticing. Chandor spends a lot of time putting us within the headspace of his characters first and foremost, so that when things finally blow up, we’re alongside them with every rotten turn and impossible decision. Needless to say, when things get going, the film is like dynamite. The action is incredibly shot, intense but clean and focused, never devolving into unrealistic mayhem, but instead controlled bursts of realistic chaos. Roman Vasyanov’s stunning cinematography brings to life a hostile world that is both beautiful and unforgiving. There are some incredible shots which show off the harsh terrain and expansive vistas that surround the men as they begin to crumble under the weight of their ambition. All in all, Chandor proves himself a master at psychological tension and pulse-pounding fireworks, blending the two with perfect synergy.

Triple Frontier review Garrett Hedlund Charlie Hunnam

Of course, a big portion of why the film works is its cast. Oscar Issac anchors the entire thing with Pope. Thanks to Isaac, Pope is someone who we understand even when his actions constantly make him hard to pin down. There’s a conviction within Isaac that burns. He’s someone who is both empathetic and despicable, and it’s hard to see where either side ends or begins. As Tom, Ben Affleck gives one of his best performances to date. Tom’s story is fascinating, an ex-solider who needs a gun in his hand but also has a genuine desire to provide for his family. There’s enough here for another article, and Affleck gives the role the complexity it needs. Rounding things out, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal complete the brotherhood. The film is as harrowing as it is because of the believably camaraderie these men have with one another. Though their individual storylines range, there is no weak leak in terms of performance.

Triple Frontier is a welcome addition to the genre because it wants to make us reevaluate what it all means. Shades of toxic masculinity, PTSD and loyalty underscore a devastating premise. In its most basic terms, this is a film about five Americans invading another country under a self-righteous cause, only to give into greed and leave behind a wake of destruction and torment. And still, this is a film that doesn’t approach its subject matter with anger, but a genuine attempt at understanding. Thanks to Chandor’s restraint and some knockout performances, the final product is a grim dissection of both our most destructive and uplifting qualities. Brutal, heartbreaking and hard to let go of.

SG