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It’s been a good while since Triple Frontier was first announced as a film project. Originally, the project was described as a re-teaming of Zero Dark Thirty collaborators Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal; but eventually this iteration of the movie disbanded. This led to a revolving door of talent signing on to the project. It happened for some time, to the point that by conventional wisdom, this film shouldn’t exist. Now, almost a decade later, through the good graces of Netflix and director J.C. Chandor, Triple Frontier has finally arrived as a fully finished product that delivers the goods.
Triple Frontier follows a handful of combat vets from the same unit (Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam, and Garrett Hedlund) in a quest for the ultimate payday. Thanks to one of their own scoring an inside line on an elusive drug kingpin’s secret lair, the group hatches a plan to infiltrate a secret location and nab the prize. If they succeed, the score will total in the millions, with enough money for each man to live happily and healthily. Yet, while the ultimate cost of success starts to rise so does the danger involved in such a heist, and all involved will be left to question whether or not the risk will outweigh the reward.
For the most part, Triple Frontier is a cool idea that's executed well. Teaming up the talents of Oscar Isaac and Ben Affleck as the story’s functional leads, with a supporting ring of Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam, and Garrett Hedlund binding them all as a believable combat unit, is one of the greatest casting coups Netflix has ever landed. It’s because of their dedication to the material in front of them, as well as J.C. Chandor showing off some impressive action chops (which seemingly came out of left field), that Triple Frontier ultimately succeeds. However, there is one crucial caveat that must be addressed when examining this film’s level of true effectiveness.
The only minor drawback to Triple Frontier is that you can see some of the seams between writer Mark Boal’s original vision and the presumed additions that co-writer/director J.C. Chandor more than likely threw into the mix. While Boal’s portion of the story is focused on the struggles of the modern veteran, and the pseudo-military raid that these vets launch on a kingpin’s compound, Chandor’s piece feels like a slower, more methodical examination on the aftermath of said decisions. Much like his previous film, A Most Violent Year, the unravelling of said decisions are on full, unflinching display.
While Triple Frontier starts out as an aggressive action thriller that propels itself on lightning-fast pacing and economical action, the film eventually gives way to a section that slows everything down, instead switching focus to a morality play. I frankly liked it, but it’s here that this film will truly make or break viewers' opinions.
J.C. Chandor has always been a filmmaker who loves to explore the personal and individual toll of events, but the way Triple Frontier segues into and eventually out of that dip in pacing is definitely noticeable. Patient viewers will likely be along for the ride; however, those expecting the Zero Dark Thirty meets Ocean’s Eleven energy this film exudes during its first act and a half to be consistently present may leave rather confused. Even with that in mind, Triple Frontier feels like a film that has the potential to be a fantastic return experience. And even if that assumption doesn’t hold true, it’s hopefully not a total deal breaker.
As an action film, as well as a dramatic character study, Triple Frontier works as an extremely cohesive combination of two types of film that usually don’t mesh together well. Not to mention, most films that go through almost a decade of development hell probably wish they looked and felt as good as this one does. It’s not hard to see why once you’ve experienced the film yourself; while it feels like two different storytellers are at work, they’re both telling the same powerful story.