July 19, 2019

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Triple Frontier pulls off plenty of thrills

Netflix film high on shoot-'em-up action, low on character development

Triple Frontier, which opened in U.S. theatres last week and starts streaming on Netflix today, is long on macho posturing and short on character development, but it’s an undeniably gripping affair — and not for the reasons you might imagine at the outset.

The Netflix-produced thriller has plenty of shoot-’em-up action, but it’s the accounting that will leave you breathless.

Santiago Garcia, a.k.a. Pope (Oscar Isaac) has been working with the police in South America for years to oust a drug kingpin, Lorea, whose widespread influence poisons the lives of everyone it touches. Lorea is holed up in a fortress in the Brazilian jungle with his family and millions in ill-gotten gains, which Pope figures would be better off in his hands, and those of his former Special Forces buddies, as a kind of restitution for their years of service to the American public.

The script by Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty) and director J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) only mildly attempts to justify this rationalization, briefly sketching out how these men who bled red, white and blue were discarded after their service, and why they might throw themselves into harm’s way (and an illegal operation) to make some money.

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Triple Frontier, which opened in U.S. theatres last week and starts streaming on Netflix today, is long on macho posturing and short on character development, but it’s an undeniably gripping affair — and not for the reasons you might imagine at the outset.

The Netflix-produced thriller has plenty of shoot-’em-up action, but it’s the accounting that will leave you breathless.

Santiago Garcia, a.k.a. Pope (Oscar Isaac) has been working with the police in South America for years to oust a drug kingpin, Lorea, whose widespread influence poisons the lives of everyone it touches. Lorea is holed up in a fortress in the Brazilian jungle with his family and millions in ill-gotten gains, which Pope figures would be better off in his hands, and those of his former Special Forces buddies, as a kind of restitution for their years of service to the American public.

The script by Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty) and director J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) only mildly attempts to justify this rationalization, briefly sketching out how these men who bled red, white and blue were discarded after their service, and why they might throw themselves into harm’s way (and an illegal operation) to make some money.

William (Ironhead) Miller (Charlie Hunnam, whose accent is all over the place) is giving paid pep talks to army reservists, while his brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund) is on the MMA fight circuit.

Pilot and new dad Francisco (Catfish) Morales (Narcos’ Pedro Pascal) had his licence suspended on cocaine charges (it’s not clear why this should elicit sympathy), and divorced Tom (Redfly) Davis (Ben Affleck) is trying unsuccessfully to make ends meet and pay his child support as a real-estate agent.

Oscar Isaac, left and Ben Affleck (Netflix)</p>

Oscar Isaac, left and Ben Affleck (Netflix)

That is all we know about these men, so their later decisions and actions, as things invariably begin to go south, feel random and illogical. Sometimes they’re trigger-happy, and other times they take the moral high ground without explanation or background.

Redfly is the only character with any kind of arc, as Affleck takes him from puffy-eyed, chino-wearing dad to a steely-eyed master strategist. He steps into the leadership role he’s clearly been craving since he left the military, but then abandons his own carefully constructed plan when confronted with more money than he knows what to do with... literally.

And oh, that money. The fact that all five men are former Green Berets kind of sucks the element of fun out of the heist — there are no dapper suits, waitresses to be seduced or elaborate schemes, just five sweaty dudes in camo, armed to the teeth and outfitted with all manner of comms and other military-grade hardware — but Chandor captures the dream-come-true, kid-in-a-candy-store thrill of seeing stacks and stacks of bills, yours for the taking.

And then he captures the improbable nightmare of just what to do with it all — US$250 million won’t fit into a couple of sleek attaché cases. It requires more than a hundred duffel bags stuffed with bills and it weighs about 6,000 pounds (watching five fit-but-closing-in-on-middle-age guys humping sacks of cash through the Andes is partly funny, partly sad).

That’s where Triple Frontier differs from other heist flicks — the barrier to untold riches isn’t betrayal or a double-crossing partner, it’s simply a lack of stamina.

These guys consider themselves blood brothers, fellow warriors. They would never leave a man behind, but at a certain point, they’re going to have to start ditching bags, and even combat can’t prepare you for that kind of pain.

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

Read full biography

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