19th Mar2019

‘Triple Frontier’ Review (Netflix)

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Adria Arjona, Reynaldo Gallegos, Louis Rodriguez, Juan Camilo Castillo, Sheila Vand | Written by J.C. Chandor, Mark Boal | Directed by J.C. Chandor

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Acclaimed director J.C. Chandor’s much anticipated follow up to his critically lauded stoic New York gangster drama A Most Violent Year finally arrives after a five-year absence from cinema screens in Triple Frontier. Chandor’s film has had a much-troubled road to production. The long-awaited release is in fact due to Chandor’s work on Deepwater Horizon, of which he was scheduled to direct but was ultimately fired from production due to scripting issues. Deepwater Horizon was subsequently directed by director Peter Berg and received relatively good reviews, However, Chandor was left waiting in the wings with no sight on his next project. Resulting in a year-long break from any production, eventually turning his attention to Triple Frontier, of which has been in development hell since 2010.

Trouble would strike again with multiple casting issues rising from the likes of Johnny Depp and Mahershala Ali attached at one point or another. However, it seemed the final nail in the coffin was dealt with both cast members Channing Tatum and Tom Hardy dropping out of the film due to creative issues and multiple script revisions led the film to be scrapped in early 2017, only for Netflix to pick up the reigns a month later. After languishing in development hell for almost a decade the final product of Triple Frontier is an old school action thriller intertwined in a delicate relevant social commentary on the neglecting of veterans with sizeable performances and terrific set-pieces.

The all-star cast on offer here is terrific. Oscar Isaac teams with Chandor once again after A Most Violent Year and puts forward another drastically different rendition of a character in his glowing filmography that reinforces the terrific talent he inhabits in both range and crafting of a specific, always unique character. Isaac’s character doesn’t necessarily have the greatest of depth on offer per se. Isaac’s character of Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia injects a superb screen presence and commands the film with gravitas and intensity. The latter of which can be said for the entire cast for that matter. Charlie Hunnam who has often underwhelmed in sizeable projects such as King Arthur and Pacific Rim is thankfully given a well-rounded and visually strong character as William ‘Ironhead’ Miller. Hunnam undoubtedly works best when working one on one and situated with real actors rather than a blue screen and copious amounts of CGI work, case in point Papillon, Lost City of Z and now Triple Frontier, being able to stretch his acting ability.

Ben Affleck is arguably the character with the strongest depth and piquant layers as Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis. Affleck brings a realistic grounded stoic realism in a manner of a veteran beaten down in societal pressure and even in the midst of the banal is slowly consumed with the idea of this treacherous intoxicating robbery and financial freedom. The character with Affleck’s brilliant talent of simplistic delivery is tremendous. It’s condensed into small glances and a dishevelled physical embodiment that packs a gigantic poignant punch when the film shows its emotional weight. Supporting players in Adria Arjona, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal, as Yovanna, Ben Miller and Francisco ‘Catfish’ Morales respectively, have little to nothing to do both in terms of onscreen engagement and depth via the writing, of which throughout is sadly the films biggest problem.

The film has a rather superbly crafted story arc and social-political commentary on the state of veterans trying to assimilate back into society. However, this narrative thread by Chandor and Mark Boal, while clear and the heart of the films first act and small fragments of the second, go amiss and forgotten throughout. It doesn’t pack the significant sizeable punch it deserves nor the exploration to really dive into this topic and does walk on the treacherous path of exploitative. Of course, it brings more awareness to the said issue, even if embellished to a heist film, but the heart of the topic in neglecting these parts of society and the possible tail spin of events that surround these human beings is relevant and powerful as it should be, but significantly underwritten. The writing also fails to fully establish these characters in depth or layers throughout, preferring to cater to the action-adventure feature rather than the heart and soul of what makes this film work in the endearing drama and compelling characters. Thankfully of which this film stands its ground with terrific performances and doesn’t drown in the generic conventional thriller that many of its contemporaries have fallen into.

Triple Frontier is available on Netflix now.

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