In the hands of a director other than J.C. Chandor this could have been yet another mindless shoot ‘em up with disposable characters played by a lesser talented cast in hopes of making a quick buck. If the script had been snatched up by someone other than Mark Boal the same might apply. The final product that Triple Frontier became is a result of a talented director combining powers with an equally gifted screenwriter and of course getting such a stellar cast to bring it all to life. Now I don’t want my words misconstrued, Triple Frontier is far from perfect but ultimately what makes it stand out is the weight of the characters’ decisions. Rather than a mindless body count every life taken is felt and ultimately, even in the smallest of ways, alters their overall plan. Despite being trained soldiers, death as common as it is for them never becomes normal or run-of-the-mill. They may be killing drug dealers, this excuse may help them sleep at night, but at the end of the day they are in fact taking lives. As time goes on you see the effects of such a burden weigh on these men heavily.
A decent amount of the runtime is spent on one member convincing the rest to join him on one last mission, a mission that will at long last get these hardened patriots paid. The money is tantalizing and the plan makes everything seem easy and uncomplicated which for these men is red flag number one. All their lives they have put themselves in harm’s way for their country only to later find themselves broken and penniless as a result. The chance to get paid, like they should have all along, is far too tempting to pass up. Insert former soldiers into situation they shouldn’t be in, toss in one monkey wrench after another and watch as four highly trained men try to remember their training the face of the greatest adversity of their entire careers. They will test their skills, their patience, and most dangerously their trust in one another. If they hope to survive the heist of a lifetime they must stay together, a house divided cannot stand.
J.C. Chandor, with past efforts has demonstrated his patience with story, to allow everything to transpire as it should rather than, for example, rushing for the sake of appeasing the impatient moviegoer. This definitely speaks to the-calm-before-the-storm approach he takes here with Triple Frontier. His patience pays off as the story breathes life into the characters making them feel authentic and possibly most importantly, flawed. Once they have been established and only when, the violence comes making their safety all the more important to us, the audience. To care for the characters is to care about the movie as a whole. If it’s mindlessness with silly characters suddenly nothing matters and who cares at that point?
The structure of the film is constructed by Mark Boal, screenwriter of Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, among others. Needless to say this man knows how to construct an impactful but always entertaining and authentic look at military life in many respects. From the dangerously bored in The Hurt Locker to the dangerously obsessed in Zero Dark Thirty to the restless, left by the wayside soldier feeling forgotten and used in Triple Frontier, he knows how to highlight without glamorizing the uglier side of such a visceral, violent living. With Chandor at the helm of Boal’s script, Triple Frontier is a thrilling adventure that never forgets the characters and what makes them worthy of such a lofty, difficult journey. Like I said though, this isn’t without its faults.
I spoke of Chandor’s patience and while greatly appreciated it can at times feel heavy handed, holding back a story that feels at times should be carried out at a more brisk pace rather than the fast walk it remains at for most of the runtime. This is mainly in reference to the first part of the story that creates a whole lot of buildup for a climax that is if anything stretched out over the rest of the film making it feel in a way less impactful. A heist is spoken of and planned for and finally it happens and, almost nothing. While it picks up later on, the reason we’re all watching lands with more of a flutter than a crash, we want the crash.
Basically what is advertised and what actually happens aren’t necessarily two different things but rather what is advertised as a straight action movie was made into a drama with action driven moments. I have to say though, what I was expecting was fine but I feel I would have forgotten soon after. I like to think this more thoughtful angle to an action oriented adventure overall allows for a more memorable experience in the long run. Now that I know what kind of film Triple Frontier really is, a dramatic take on an action film, I might enjoy my second go around a bit more. That said, I truly enjoyed this film and by the end I felt as tired (in a good way) and changed as the characters themselves. It just goes to show that money truly can’t fix everything. Sometimes to walk away is to win in an otherwise unwinnable situation. It has its weaknesses sure but for my money Triple Frontier aims to please and for the most part hits the target, it’s just not a bullseye.
Rated R For: violence and language throughout
Runtime: 125 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama
Starring: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Adria Arjona
Directed By: J.C. Chandor
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Streaming on Netflix
Check out the trailer below:
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