By Ambar Chatterjee
‘Triple Frontier delivers on all frontiers’
Cast: Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Adria Arjona.
Director: J.C. Chandor
Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)
Santiago (Oscar Isaac), after years of pursuit, finally locates the whereabouts of a fearsome drug lord who holds all his earnings in his house which he uses as his safe. Santiago brings in the expertise of his army buddies, Tom (Ben Affleck), William (Charlie Hunnam), Ben (Garrett Hedlund) and Francisco (Pedro Pascal) to plan an impeccable hit on the man that would ensure his death. Tom and the others agree to Santiago’s offer and arrive at the Triple Frontier to plan the mission. Once on the location, Santiago offers the team a revised deal asking them to be the squad to take down the drug lord and carry his substantial wealth across the frontier and share the spoils among themselves. Each of the buddies who are having a hard time coping with mediocre lives after the end of their services decides to pull off the job. However, things don’t go according to plan.
Triple Frontier packs in so much brilliance in the first hour of its runtime that I was really getting anxious whether it could withstand such flair all throughout its runtime. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the film didn’t let off any steam and ends just as strong as it began (sans a nitpicky issue that I will get to eventually). As I watched this film I was constantly reminded of Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015) which was very different in subject and execution but has an uncanny resemblance to this film in its mood. Here is a film that gets to its point from the very first scene and remains on point all the way through. There is no unnecessary character building. We hardly see any of the men’s family members sans Tom’s little girl. There is also no heroism or sob story associated with the men. These are men of war and the only thing bothering them is the fact that they don’t know how to do anything else except fight and kill. The film makes that fact abundantly clear and plays that card effectively all throughout to extract drama.
The men get involved in the mission knowing full well what they are getting into. They are not afraid to get their hands dirty and they do get their hands dirty time and again. They are aware that what they are doing is stealing and is against any code or ethics but they don’t care about that. All they care about is making as much money as they can while they are at it. There are certain scenes where one of the protagonists is more than willing to shoot kids in order to get away with the money. All this goes down a long way into making this film exciting and gripping. We don’t know what our so-called heroes would do as we know full well that they are ready to stoop down to any level for monetary gains. Going by what they are up against it becomes even more interesting to see what happens to them in the end. The film is able to sustain our interest in the characters and the story alike.
The performances are consistently brilliant. Ben Affleck’s character is shown selling houses for a living and he looks evidently pissed about it. But that doesn’t make him the rash and uncalculating villain that he becomes through the course of the story. Once he lays eyes on the money, he is willing to go to any distance to get it back. His arc in the film is the most pronounced and also the most affecting as he starts off as a good family man. Oscar Isaac as Santiago is the next best thing. He keeps violently oscillating between the good (his relationship with his informer played by Adria Arjona) and the bad (his desire to kill the drug lord and make away with his wealth at any cost) and it makes for an interesting watch. Charlie Hunnam is the sanest operative of the lot and he is in many ways the conscience of the whole group. I loved his act for the sense of calm that he brought to the whole drama. Pedro Pascal is charismatic and his mere presence adds a lot of sparkle to the ensemble.
In addition to the gripping screenplay and the engaging performances, Triple Frontier also boasts of some scintillating action. Be it the manner in which the team pulls off the tactical heist, the climb up a treacherous mountain stretch with the stolen cash, some terrific mark and shoot sequences or the thrilling finale. The action and realistic violence of the film work wonderfully well. I was also floored by the sequence in which a helicopter holding the team and the money is shown going down. The manner in which this sequence is built up and how it culminates had me on the edge of my seat with my heart in my mouth. It’s not just the action but the manner in which the whole film is shot and edited that adds to the tension and drama. The film’s cinematography is stellar and adds a lot to its feel. The Triple Frontiers (the tri-border junction of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil) are shown beautifully and is also effectively tied into the narrative.
On the flip side, I had just one nitpicky issue with the film. The climax felt a tad bit underwhelming. I have to add that the manner in which the story ends was in strong keeping with the realistic feel of the story and screenplay and it was the best possible ending that the film could have got but the film got me so excited with its ferocious treatment and progression that I felt a little deprived by its unremarkable finish. The character of Garrett Hedlund also felt out of place among the other in the group. He wasn’t bad. It’s just that the others were way better than him.
Netflix, after a few misfires here and there are back on the driving seat with this film. It can be watched and enjoyed by one and all. Triple Frontier is a grim and gripping film that doubles as an action adventure and as a character-driven drama. The good news is that the film scores on both the counts and makes one hell of an impression with its raw and in-your-face feel. I watched it twice back-to-back and wouldn’t mind watching it a few times more.