Updated: Mar 27, 2019
An action-packed jungle heist with a heavy-hitting cast.
Streaming on Netflix | 2019 | R | 2hr 5m
Genre: action, suspense
Why I watched: You didn't think I'd miss this one, did you? A heist movie featuring former soldiers? Um, yeah, Triple Frontier is right up my alley. And it didn't disappoint. (For starters, there's the scene that evokes that iconic (and truly awful) one from Lone Survivor, in which a team of Navy SEALs is hunted through the mountains of Afghanistan. Brilliant.)
You might also like: The Hurt Locker, streaming on Netflix, of course. And why not compare Triple Frontier's compound raid to the iconic one in Zero Dark Thirty? Also—and bear with me here—The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. Part one of the epic adaptation of Tolkien's classic series features a mountain pass scene with some striking similarities to one in Triple Frontier. You can rent it on iTunes.
A quick Google search will tell you that it was a challenge to get this movie made. Mark Boal, who wrote Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, contributed the story for Triple Frontier, and initially Kathryn Bigelow, who directed both of those films, was slated to direct. That was back in 2010. Bigelow eventually dropped out, Paramount dropped the film, and Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Mahershala Ali, Channing Tatum, Tom Hardy and more were all connected—and then disconnected—from the project, originally titled Sleeping Dogs.
Netflix swooped in and purchased the film rights a couple years ago, and now we have Triple Frontier, named for the Tres Fronteres region where the story is set: the geographical meeting point of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil in the Upper Amazon region. Filmed in Hawaii and Colombia, the film is g.o.r.g.e.o.u.s. Scenes flow from rain forest, to snow-capped peaks, to mangrove forests on the coast. That is reason enough to watch this movie, imho, but the good news is that there are plenty of other reasons, too.
Here's the film in a nutshell: a group of retired U.S. Special Forces operatives band together to rob a Colombian drug lord hidden deep in the Amazon. Pope (Oscar Isaac), who has been working with the police in Colombia since leaving the military, has an uphill battle to recruit his four buddies, who are all skeptical. "The question is," he evangelizes, "do we finally get to use our skills for our own benefit, and actually change something?" That "something" isn't the corrupt political system in Colombia, which is Pope's alleged reason for the heist. It just seems to be about money—which is something Pope firmly believes he and his buddies deserve. When he tries to convince Tom (Ben Affleck) to join the mission, he asks, "How many times have we flown around with 20 million dollars at our feet to pay off some cockroach, and we never took a dime? You've been shot five times for your country, and you can't even afford a new truck. That's the real crime."
If they can dispose of a really dangerous dude and get enough money to send their kids to college and buy Ferarris, what's so wrong with that? Well, a lot goes wrong with that. Without "a flag on their shoulders" and actual military backing, these guys are on their own, and almost nothing goes to plan. For one thing, they find a lot more money than they expected in the compound, and, I mean, what would you do? Just leave it all behind? No way. But now they've got to make it to the ocean—over the Andes mountains—in a borrowed helicopter carrying a whole lot more weight than it was designed for. I won't give anything else away, but, well, you can imagine that things get dicey. (Tweet at me when you get to that helicopter scene in the coca fields.)
The writing is spotty, and at first I felt a little disappointed in Mark Boal. It's like every other line is a line, a pedantic quip about money, loyalty, morality, or justice. And each character seems almost one-dimensional: Ironhead (Charlie Hunnam) is guided by morality, Benny (Garrett Hedlund) by emotion, Catfish (Pedro Pascal) by practicality, Pope (Isaac) by justice. The movie is full of little instructive stories, too: greed gets you nowhere, money has limited value, brotherhood is priceless. But taken together, the movie emerges as equal parts allegory and epic tale. It's a story that is greater than the sum of its parts, and it's no less entertaining for its instructiveness. I could say so much more about Triple Frontier, but I'll spare you—just watch it, and see what you think.
Happy Streaming! Grace