Like many films before it, Triple Frontier features an all star cast built of macho badassery. They wield high-powered artillery so confidently it’s as if they’re shooting bullets from their own limbs. They drink beer. They listen to Metallica. They use the skills they’ve developed over a lifetime of war to make a lot of money and look amazing while doing it. But unlike films before it, Triple Frontier seems to be completely disappointed in its group of badasses. This film sends a group grizzled veterans into a rewardable heist situation, which as you can imagine goes horribly wrong. But the tragedy isn’t that they might not get the money. The tragedy is that they tried in the first place.
Our focal group of men (played by: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund & Pedro Pascal) are tough, broken and are well trained to bottle up their emotions, so much so that they all default to the same inscrutable stare. That’s “the price of being a warrior,” as one musters up early on and that ends up being about as much as the film develops on before moving forward. While Triple Frontier is quite talky for a high-stakes action thriller, it lacks depth or any kind of sufficient backstory to make its character’s risky task all that palpable. Fortunately, Triple Frontier doesn’t lack forward momentum and continues to maintain a sufficient amount of thrills as each stage of the plan hits a new bump in the road.
Society has failed this group of men. Failed them to a point that now all they can hope for is to take part in this cash grab. And it’s the ethical quandary through their arduous trek across South America that gives Triple Frontier its texture. As not all of the thrills come from the action, but more from the parable on greed that flows through the film’s veins. The sleek delivery from writer-director J.C. Chandor takes this film into interesting directions. He careens from a claustrophobic jungle showdown to a dramatic helicopter crash. The complex settings throughout the film often upstage the central dilemma, but Triple Frontier collects a dazzling array of images (thanks to the cold, calculated cinematography from Roman Vasyanov) that always keeps the landscape at the center of the story.
Triple Frontier is a film of sleek thrilling action, but it’s the ethical texture that permeates the films sincere gravity throughout. It’s in the films finale that puts the entire gamble in context, rejecting the trope that getting away with the heist is the only true metric of success. It’s in one revealing scene, where the men find themselves coping with cold darkness of the Andes mountains at night, cheerfully tossing a bag of cash into their fire. As it’s at the end of the day that even these cold-hearted men want to live another day, only to see if they can get away with it.