Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac head up a macho morality tale centring on an audacious heist
Contrary to what the generically macho title suggests, Triple Frontier is something of an oddity. JC Chandor follows A Most Violent Year by joining forces with Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal for a heist-flick-cum-wilderness-adventure with something to say about masculine pride, the mistreatment of the military and our money-hungry culture. As a collaboration and concept, it promises a great deal and even throws in a cast and a half – its gruff crew are played by Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal.
The quintet star as ex-Special Forces operatives who reunite to pull off an audacious heist; Isaac's Santiago 'Pope' Garcia assembles the crew and beleaguered estate agent Tom 'Redfly' Davis (Affleck) is the man figuring out the plan. Stashed away in the South American jungle lies the illicit fortune of drug lord Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos), a cash prize that could total as much as $75 million. Although there are a smattering of misgivings as things come together, there's plenty of swagger on display and no little nous; the men seem, in short, a competent bunch. However, when it comes down to it, the execution is a total shitshow. Faced with more dosh than they could dream of, they go to pieces.
If you're in the market for a bullish actioner what unfolds is, instead, a rather stark morality tale, one that at least tries to add some substance and surprises to the usual shenanigans. Glossy, pin-sharp cinematography comes courtesy of David Ayer's regular DP Roman Vasyanov and the film mixes things up interestingly, if ultimately misguidedly. It's an intriguing, then bemusing, sometimes unintentionally amusing blend.
Although hardly long in the tooth, the gang have the air of weary veterans – showing how quickly the armed forces can put people out to pasture. Unfortunately, the near-identikit characterisation and hackneyed approach to dialogue (Isaac really belabours the point about them being unsung heroes and this being what they deserve) is matched by a similarly on-the-nose approach to action. When a helicopter sags perilously under the weight of their loot, it's a comically literal manifestation of their greed and folly.
As the men heave ridiculous quantities of cash through treacherous terrain, Triple Frontier flirts with the surreal territory of Werner Herzog and is often more enjoyable for it. Playing like an unholy cross between Lone Survivor and Fitzcarraldo, it's a shame it doesn't keep amplifying the madness and head further down the psychological thriller rabbit hole; Tom's behaviour is despicable and suggestive of a man on the edge, while Affleck looks set to get his teeth into the role. Yet, by the end, it's clear you're supposed to view these men as compromised heroes rather than grasping, jingoistic fools.
Available to watch on Netflix from Wed 13 Mar.