Netflix’s latest movie, TRIPLE FRONTIER, dropped last week to much online buzz with some people calling it Ben Affleck’s best performance in years. I’m not sure that’s much of a compliment but it did give me enough of a reason to check it out.
Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaac, LIFE ITSELF; AT ETERNITY’S GATE; ANNIHILATION; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI; SUBURBICON; STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS; EX MACHINA; A MOST VIOLENT YEAR; INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) is a private military adviser taking on the drug trade in Colombia. After his informant tells him that Lorea, the country’s most notorious drug lord, keeps his money at his safe house in the jungle rather than in banks, Pope returns to the States and recruits his old Special Forces buddies to help him steal the money for themselves – estimated at US$75 million – under the guise of working for the Colombian government. His pals – Tom “Redfly” Davis (Affleck, TO THE WONDER), William “Ironhead” Miller (Charlie Hunnam, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD), Miller’s brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund, BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK; INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) and Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pedro Pascal, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK) – all have very good reason for joining Garcia’s mission. They’ve all made a less than financially successful transition to civilian life since leaving the Service. Quite simply, they could all use the cash and, hell ya, they deserve it! Putting their years of skills and training to use, they devise an elaborate plan to break into Lorea’s house, find the money and steal it with minimal collateral damage, and helicopter it over the Andes to the Peruvian coast where a waiting boat will ferry them and the cash to safety. But things don’t go quite as they had hoped and the guys have to improvise along the way if they’re going to get out alive.
Ignoring the highly improbable storyline for just a moment, you might think that a film directed by the critics’ darling, J.C. Chandor (MARGIN CALL; ALL IS LOST; A MOST VIOLENT YEAR), a screenplay co-written by Chandor and Oscar winner Mark Boal (HURT LOCKER), and a solid cast would make for a great film but you would be wrong here. TRIPLE FRONTIER does not make for very compelling viewing. The film is basically an inferior cross between the OCEAN’S films and THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, with a dash of SICARIO and a couple other films of similar genre thrown in for good measure. Sadly, there is absolutely no character development and there is little logic to their behaviour when their mission goes pear-shaped. These are highly trained, experienced professionals who have worked together before. Their bickering rings hollow and, frankly, because we’re so emotionally underinvested in these characters, it’s hard to care what happens to them.
The film’s takes its name from the tri-border area where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet. I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t I say that Garcia was working in Colombia? Yes, I did. Maybe Lorea’s house was in Brazil (we do see the “Welcome to Brazil” sign in both Portuguese and Spanish), but the Triple Frontier is about 2,000 km south of there. Have you ever driven 2,000 km? The film makes it seem like Lorea’s house is around the corner. And how exactly are they supposed to fly to the Peruvian coast when Bolivia lies smack in the middle? While the title sounds sexy, it wasn’t thought out very far.
All in all, though, this is not a horrible film. The acting is fairly good even if the words coming out of their mouths are forehead-smackingly ridiculous. Affleck does a good job playing a guy whose best days have long passed him by but that’s not much of an acting stretch, is it. The other actors are fine but this movie won’t be remembered as their best work. The same goes for J.C. Chandor.
TRIPLE FRONTIER is streaming now on Netflix.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, March 22nd at 8:30 am HK time!
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