‘Triple Frontier’ review: Ben Affleck leads an all-star jungle heist

Triple Frontier’ adds flare to the masculine genre by incorporating moral and psychological underpinnings on brotherhood vs. greed.

In a time where gender inclusivity is a must, it might seem that the testosterone-driven Triple Frontier is a step back for the action genre. But really, who would complain with this macho powerhouse casting? In here, our gang of former military veterans consists of Redfly (Ben Affleck), a struggling real estate agent/divorced dad; Pope (Oscar Isaac), a private military contractor who serves as the brains of the operation; Ironhead (Charlie Hunnam), an inspirational speaker to Special Forces recruits; Benny (Garrett Hedlund), an MMA fighter; and Catfish (Pedro Pascal), a pilot who recently lost his license due to cocaine smuggling. Also, Hunnam and Hedlund play brothers in the film which is quite brilliant since they actually look a lot like.

The film spends the first half hour in reuniting the team for a one final, life-changing gig: to exterminate a drug lord named Lorea and seize his ill-gotten wealth of approximately $75 million for themselves. His base mansion is situated in the middle of a jungle and the crew must find a way to smuggle the cash through a perilous terrain known as the “Triple Frontier.” Hence, the film’s namesake.

(L-R): Pedro Pascal (Francisco “Catfish” Morales), Garrett Hedlund (Ben Miller), Charlie Hunnam (William “Ironhead” Miller), and Ben Affleck (Tom “Redfly” Davis).

While it feels wrong to see former military men violate their deep-sworn vows, the film gives a strong case to justify their actions. Considering they all have taken at least one bullet for their country, it seems unfair that society has not properly rewarded them – none of them are financially secure at their current retirement jobs. Triple Frontier has something to say on the state’s lack of regard towards veterans, as well as when it comes to re-examining our views on forcefully getting what we deserve. It’s a controversial moral gray area that the film utilizes to its benefit.

The narrative might seem like a cross between Ocean and Mission: Impossible franchise but the heist here is actually just a thin aspect. Infiltrating the drug lord’s compound is the easier task. When faced with tons of money, greed starts to consume our anti-heroes and before they know it, they’re out transporting a horde of cash via helicopter – way more than they agreed to steal. By not sticking to the plan, they’re suddenly faced with life and death dilemmas, none of which they have anticipated. Their brotherhood gets tested in fire and slowly, pieces of their humanity starts to peel off. As their situation grows more stressful and desperate, a tragic irony befalls: at some point, they might have to let go of the money for them to survive.

Oscar Isaac (Santiago “Pope” Garcia) and Ben Affleck (Tom “Redfly” Davis)

It’s a bold decision for director/co-writer J.C. Chandor to take an unconventional path of psychologically draining yet nevertheless, exhilarating survivalist flick. He knows how to heighten the suspense and tension with every obstacle that the group face, and Roman Vasyanov’s camerawork vividly captures the well-staged stunts and visceral setpieces. For a Netflix streaming release, Triple Frontier has the look and feel of a motion picture.

When it comes to individual characterization, there are some missed opportunities. With huge money involved, the script fails to delve into the personal motivations of some characters, apart from getting rich. Hence, we don’t really care for the money, as much as we care for their survival.

(L-R): Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal in ‘Triple Frontier.’

This is a film that greatly benefits from its main cast’s solid performance. Affleck has always been reliable in his brand of gloomy and understated acting while Isaac has also enough charisma in him so as not to be upstaged. Unfortunately, Hunnam, Hedland and Pascal get the shorter end of the sticks with thinner materials to work with. They eventually end up as stock characters who achieve depth mainly due to their great performances. Otherwise, the gang has a natural chemistry as a whole, making it feel like there’s a real sense of shared history present.

By incorporating thoughtful psychological and moral underpinnings on brotherhood vs. greed, Triple Frontier delivers a different level of firepower not present in typical high-octane action thrillers. This proves to have more brains than brawn. For that, the lack of feminine representation shall be excused.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by J. C. Chandor and written by Mark Boal and J.C. Chandor, ‘Triple Frontier‘ stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal and Adria Arjona. Run time: 125 minutes.

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