Movie Review: ‘Triple Frontier’

Triple Frontier is an action-packed thriller from director J. C. Chandor, featured on Netflix. With a script from The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal and producer Katherine Bigelow, this is a typically vivid story of retired soldiers doing it for themselves. Set in the jungles of South America, five hardcore gunslingers go after a huge haul of cash by taking out a cartel boss with a fear of banks. In this enlightened era of equality, this is likely to be one of the last of the dying breed of macho, ‘bro-films,’ centring around five men who discover that all the planning in the world can’t help you make off with north of $150 million.

Is this last hurrah of the bro-film up to scratch, and should we still be glorifying the themes of gang violence and military might in film?

The action
The story begins with ‘Pope’ (Oscar Isaac) coming to his old military buddies (from their Black Ops days, one wonders?) with a proposition to make a serious windfall robbing a drug-dealing criminal’s jungle home. His argument is that the years of hard service given by coordinator ‘Redfly’ (Ben Affleck), brothers ‘Ironhead’ (Charlie Hunnam) & Benny (Garrett Hedlund) and pilot ‘Catfish’ (Pedro Pascal) are deserving of far more reward than medals or honour. Using their unique skillset and a cache of ‘locally sourced’ weapons, they successfully raid the home of Lorea, a warlord blamed by Pope for the misery of the local people, while much of the household is at church.

Though Ironhead takes a bullet, the heist is something of a success and meticulously filmed, demonstrating the speed and skill of the raiders, yet the fatal flaw of Redfly is exposed as he starts to insist that the group take more cash than they can possibly carry. Such a weighty load inevitably leads to their expensive helicopter crashing in the Andes, leaving the soldiers stranded and forced to walk, with their dozens of money bags, over the mountain range to reach the coast. They are not forgotten by the local cartels and young assassins stand in their way as they attempt to reach the boat that will take them to safety.

The meaningful stuff
This story seems to lose momentum as the long trek over the mountains ensues, with only a couple of surprises to make you sit up and take notice again. It does tell us a lot about the limitations of these men, however tough and well trained they may be. Just as the genre of the bro-film is being wound down, this latter part of the film would seem to represent a realisation that the most important things have been left at home by these gallivanting gunmen, who begin to waste their haul of cash on purpose to speed up their progress.

While Redfly and Catfish seem to have fallen on hard times and take part to pay alimony and support families, there seems to be very little justification for Ironhead (whose job seems to be giving motivational speeches to soldiers) and MMA fighter Benny to come along. Both appear to be single and in work, before coming along seemingly for the banter, getting shot and going home with, essentially, nothing.

Films like this play on the fervour surrounding the themes of violence, criminality, drugs and guns. Intrigue in these themes is not restricted to cinema. Video games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto have peaked in popularity in recent years, while military or gun-fighting themes inspire everything from action figures in toy shops to online slots promoted on, with for example The Terminator or Predator on Party Casino, which rely on this penchant for fighting, over more traditional versions. Triple Frontier has a similar draw, but its jaded nature suggests it may be one of the last movies to do so.
Triple Frontier was a decent watch for an action-lover, with a strong cast of characters too large to have been developed any more than they were. Their journey effectively reveals the flaws that are perhaps responsible for drawing such men back into this life from the ‘comforts’ of normality. The best thing is that it is on Netflix, so you don’t even have to leave your sofa to give it a look!

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