You may have read some dour assessments of J.C. Chandor‘s Triple Frontier (Netflix, opening today — streaming as of 3.13), a moralistic heist-gone-wrong adventure thriller. But it’s no wipeout.
It’s definitely a better-than-decent sit, and is certainly worth catching for the second half, or for the section that deals with how to escape with ill-gotten loot on the backs of donkeys, chopping your way through heavy jungle and over and down the Andes mountains.
The first half deals with five 40ish special forces veterans (Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal) deciding to rip off the fortress home of a South American drug dealer, and the second half is about trying to get away with it and not doing so well in this regard, and being forced to abandon more and more dough as the escape progresses.
The second half is about what happens when you’re carried away by greed and you forsake common sense. It’s more or less John Huston‘s Treasure of Sierra Madre meets William Friedkin‘s Sorcerer meets Eric von Stroheim‘s Greed.
I was into Triple Frontier during the first half, but not exactly gripped by it. We aren’t told very much about the five ex-commandos (Affleck’s character is sketched out to some extent — he’s fat, financially strapped, has an alienated daughter) and the general feeling is that the film is a stone skipping across the surface of a lake. Or, you know, more into treading water than actually swimming.
There isn’t enough texture, the heist isn’t planned with enough detail, there aren’t enough hindrances or security guards…it’s all kind of rushed along.
The key moment is when they discover that the drug lord has much, much more cash socked away in his jungle abode than expected. $250 million or something like that. If these guys could get away with $10 million each they’d obviously be doing just fine. Hell, they could make off with $20 million each. But no — cash-strapped Affleck suddenly wants a Kardashian-sized bank account. He not only loses his mind — let’s take it all, look at this, we’re loaded beyond our wildest dreams! — but everyone else falls in line.
The problem is that Issac has arranged for a large Russian-made chopper to take them over the Andes, but all that extra dough (bags and bags of it) weighs a hell of a lot, and they find out too late that the helicopter can’t manage to clear the 11,000-foot Andes peaks with all that weight. The chopper goes down, and then, finally, Triple Frontier gets interesting.
HE commenters were complaining two or three days ago that I’d erred by openly guessing that not all of the five make it out alive. Which is, in fact, true. I’m not going to say how many get away clean, but a typical action melodrama of this type would kill off at least two characters if not three. Suffice that Triple Frontier is atypical.
Affleck is so heavy in this film he’s almost Harvey Weinstein. All that bulk plus thatches of gray hair…you’re seriously wondering if his heart can take the strain and stress. Affleck is almost double the size he was in Gone Girl.
I was nonetheless favorably impressed by Triple Frontier. All in all it’s a solid B plus. And that ain’t hay.
FROM HERE ON, IT’S SPOILER TIME…
At the very end a hefty portion of the loot is donated to the family of a character who doesn’t quite make it to the end. I have a problem with this.
More than anyone else, this character goaded the team to carry off a lot more money than they had originally planned to find, etc. Everyone went along with this, but this guy was leading the charge, urging them on.
Taking more money makes no sense as there are clear weight limits on the amount of cash the chopper can carry over the Andes. The pilot (Pedro Pascal) voices concerns about this, but they’re all so money-crazy they decide to risk it anyway.
So after this character dies and the others make it back safely, they decide to DONATE THEIR SHARES to this character’s family fund. The principal recipient is the character’s chubby daughter, a typically sullen teen who refuses to face life without ear buds.
I would make sure the daughter gets a full one-fifth share of the loot, naturally, but why does she get all of it? I REALLY don’t get this at all. The character in question inspired the team to think and act in greed mode. He was the father of it. How does that translate into the fat daughter pocketing every last dime?
There’s also an issue about the team needing to carry the body of this fallen character back to civilization. What difference does it make if the remains of a fellow soldier are cremated or buried in his home town or if he’s buried under rock and soil in the Andes foothills? Dead is dead, gone is gone.
On top of which a bullet lodged in a guy’s head might raise questions with the local coroner or funeral home director. Why risk it?
At the very end one of the five passes a note to another — a piece of paper with the geographical coordinates of a crevasse where some a good portion of the loot has been dropped. The idea, obviously, is that he might someday return to the Andes foothills and scoop up all these tens of millions.
My first reaction was “[unnamed character] is going back to the crevasse in the spring or summer to retrieve the loot? Not alone he isn’t. He’ll need three or four guys, minimum. It’s no duckwalk rapelling to the bottom of a crevasse, and then climbing back up again with all that weight. Sounds dicey.”