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A-Ron’s Film Reviews: Triple Frontier

WRITER/DIRECTOR JC CHANDOR IS ON A 4 FILM WINNING STREAK, AS HE DIRECTS HIS 4TH FILM THE MACHO ACTIONER “TRIPLE FRONTIER”. 

Within the last 8 years and only three films under his belt. Writer and director JC Chandor, has made a name for himself and has earned the ranks to becoming one of my favorite filmmakers. His first film in 2011 “Margin Call”, was a spectacular debut that followed the key people at an investment bank, over a 24 hour period, during the intense unraveling of the 2008 financial crisis. Chandor recruited an A-list cast of actors, including: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and Demi Moore. The film earned Chandor an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. 

In his second film “All Is Lost”, Chandor proved what a force of filmmaking he was and went from an ensemble cast to a one man show as the legendary Robert Redford faces survival of starvation and against the forces of nature. Stranded in the middle of the ocean as a collision with a shipping container at sea destroys his yacht and leaves him in a small inflated rescue boat. The last time we saw Chandor was 5 years ago when he gave us his best film thus far and solidifying himself as one of the best filmmakers working today. “A Most Violent Year” showcased Chandor’s filmmaking style of a young Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet. A gangster style film set in New York City in 1981, as Oscar Isaac is an ambitious immigrant fighting to protect his business and family during the most dangerous year in the city’s history. 

Chandor’s been away for quite some time, and I’ve been waiting anxiously for his return. His fourth film is no disappointment as “Triple Frontier” ranks right up there with his three previous stellar films. “Triple Frontier”, gives him a stellar leading cast to work with, as he tries his hand in full action mode for the first time. Chandor hasn’t directed with this scale and size before. As his previous three films contain more of the dramatic and character study. 

Chandor teams up with director and producer Kathryn Bigelow, director of “Point Break”, “Zero Dark Thirty” and her 6 time Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker” (including Best Picture and Best Director). Bigelow serves as Executive Producer, while journalist turned Oscar screenwriter Mark Boal of “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, shares credit with Chandor as screenwriter.

Chandor approaches “Triple Frontier” with full command of his filmmaking powers, he crafts a twisty nail biting actioner that only takes it’s foot off the gas to assess the troubling situations of sanity the men face, while the rest of the picture sets the course on a blistering pace. “Triple Frontier” has been a project in development for almost 10 years. It has come close to happening over and over, with Kathryn Bigelow originally set to direct and starting a variety of A-listers including: Johnny Depp (“Pirates Of Caribbean”), Tom Hanks (“Big”), Channing Tatum (“Step Up”), Tom Hardy (“Venom”), Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”), Mark Wahlberg (“Patriots Day”), Will Smith (“Bad Boys”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“Titanic”), Sean Penn (“Mystic River”) and brother of star Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck being attached to star at some point. It took Netflix to take over the project from Paramount Pictures to finally getting the movie made. “Triple Frontier” is the type of star powered, adult-oriented actioner that could only come from JC Chandor and Netflix. 

Let’s meet the team shall we? Oscar Isaac (“A Most Violent Year”) is Santiago “The Pope” Garcia. Ben Affleck (“Pearl Harbor”) is Tom “Redfly” Davis. Charlie Hunnam (“King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword”) is William “Ironhead” Miller. Garrett Hedlund (“Four Brothers”) is William’s brother, Ben and Pedro Pascal (“Narcos”) is Francisco “Catfish” Morales. Just imagine them as a team like “The Expendables”, only a generation younger and all of them very good looking. 

After spending the last three years in Brazil hunting for a way to bring down drug lord Lorea (Reynaldo Gallegos), Santiago (Oscar Isaac) has lost his vision for justice, has two shot knees and puts informant and lover Yovanna (Adria Arjona) in increasing danger. Fed up with the local system, Santiago returns to America to persuade his old Army Ranger buddies to join him on a mission to steal 75 million dollars from Lorea’s jungle compound. William (Charlie Hunnam) is an Army recruiter spending his days giving speeches, while his brother, Ben (Garrett Hedlund), makes money as an amateur MMA fighter. Francisco (Pedro Pascal) is a pilot who’s lost his license due to a drug charge, and Tom (Ben Affleck) is a divorced father, who doesn’t have a strong connection with his daughter, is in debt and just trying to make ends meet as a realtor. Tempting them with the lure of a massive payday. Santiago organizes a morning raid, with the men using their training and experience to complete the heist, which quickly runs into complications that threaten to derail the whole plan. I refuse to say anymore as there are surprises around every corner. 

The cast is on-point, and this feels like a true ensemble, with all five actors sharing equal prominence. While Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac are marginally the leads, no one is favored over the other. Ben Affleck (my favorite actor and one hell of a director) delivers a resonant performance as Tom. Oscar Isaac (also one of my top favorite actors. just give the man an Oscar already) brings his usual electric presence as the badass Santiago. Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund are perfectly cast as brothers, who are believable as siblings.

“Triple Frontier” is visually stunning as the production spent months shooting in Oahu, Hawaii standing in as Brazil. Check out Ben Affleck’s Instagram as he took photos revisiting the filming locations for his film “Pearl Harbor”. Being that this is Chandor’s first real action movie it’s impressive work, and while he opts for more realism, the action is effective. A big chopper crash towards the middle of the film is one of the stand-out set pieces. I enjoyed the dilemma the men face with the logistics of carrying $250 million in cash through the jungle. 

Playing exclusively in theaters for a week before premiering on Netflix, “Triple Frontier” is a tough, blood spattered, soldier-of-fortune heist thriller with strong performances from the outstanding cast, expertly choreographed action sequences and expert direction for the fourth time in a row from Chandor. “Triple Frontier” has everything that could have made this quite the experience in theaters. If made for theatrical release it would have been a Jerry Bruckheimer produced flick, where it might have been more action and not as book smart as what we have gotten from Netflix. You could easily have mistaken “Triple Frontier” for a Kathryn Bigelow film or most notably a Denis Villeneuve film as it replicates the look and feel of his film “Sicario”. 

It is extraordinarily suspenseful, well-acted and besting the genre’s formula through sheer force. It’s a fine actioner from Chandor, who continues to explore subjects of corruption, survival, and duty with his most sizable filmmaking endeavor. It’s his fourth film and Chandor is on a streak as all four of his films earn the highest critical praises, “Triple Frontier” is a triple home-run and features two of my favorite actors and one of my favorite writer/directors. It proves that Netflix is serious competition to the big theatrical studios.

GRADE: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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