This film had been in production for nearly ten years before its release on Netflix in 2019. It was initially being made by Paramount before they gave up on it and was picked up by Netflix.
During its production, it had gone through several directors and actors, with Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) once attached to direct, before being made by co-writer J.C. Chandor.
Actors previously attached included Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, Magic Mike), Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Gone Baby Gone) and Mahershala Ali (Hidden Figures, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).
Even Ben Affleck and Charlie Hunnam who eventually starred in the film, both dropped out of the project before later re-joining. So, with production this turbulent, what does that mean for the film itself?
The Three Frontiers (or Tres Fronteras) is an area in the Amazon Rainforest where the three borders of Brazil, Peru, and Columbia meet and is the main setting of Triple Frontier. The film is about a five-man military team coming out of retirement for a final payday.
The team is made up of Tom ‘Redfly’ Davis (Ben Affleck), Santiago ‘Pope’ Garcia (Oscar Isaacs), William ‘Ironhead’ Miller (Charlie Hunnam), Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund) and Francisco ‘Catfish’ Morales (Pedro Pascal).
The film opens on Ironhead talking to trainee soldiers about the aftermath of fighting for his country. He talks about the effects of being a soldier. This opening message is an allegory for the film, that follows the five men and looks at the effect fighting for their country has had on them and their lives.
It also shows what little they have to show for it and the lengths they’ll go to. However, this film is also about comradery and the loyalty that soldiers show for one another.
Following Ironhead’s speech, Pope is introduced in a helicopter. Quite aptly, Pope is listening to ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Metallica, based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway.
Hemingway’s novel follows a specialist American soldier, who comes out of retirement to fight in the Spanish Civil War, much in the same way as the five-man team in Triple Frontier, come out of retirement for one job. The song, inspired by the novel, alludes to the events of chapter 27 of the novel in which five soldiers are killed during an airstrike whilst hiding on a hill.
Pope is flying alongside a convoy of police heading into a shanty town. Pope is clearly differentiated from the rest by his casual clothing and lack of uniform, though clearly depicted as part of it with his gun, bulletproof vest, and earpiece.
What gives a greater gravitas to this scene is that there is no English spoken, all of the dialogue is in Spanish and no attempt has been made to Americanise or softens it for the viewer.
Pope is shown as the expert in this scene as the police are shown to make rookie mistakes, as the enemy fire on them with rocket launchers and sniper rifles. Pope is the one who finds the solution to take down the enemy.
Pope appears to chase and then lose Yovanna (Adria Arjona), only for him to really know where she is and go to her home. Here we find out what Pope is really after Lorea and money.
The next 15 minutes of the film dwells on Pope trying to convince the rest of his former team to join him on a mission to take down Lorea and take his money.
There are many similarities in this film to a number of others. The five men finding that in order to stay warm and survive in the mountains is replicated in various films including Cliffhanger (1993) and Deliver Us From Evil (1973).
Not only this, the entire storyline of the film is almost a duplicate of that of Ocean’s 11 (1960): former military men, struggling in civilian life, reunite for a last big money job, they success but are hunted, one of the team dies, they lose the money and give what they have to their comrade’s family.
Having drawn the similarities, this film feels fresh, as a viewer, you build a bond with the men on the film and ultimately feel disappointed and sorry for them when they are unsuccessful.
There is an inevitability to their failure in the film, the job isn’t well thought through and the exit strategy seems full of holes. Their greed gets the better of them and nearly costs all of them their life. Essentially, like Ocean’s 11, this film focuses on the negativity of greed and always wanting more, not being content with what you have.
This film is full of action and has a story arc that is strongly character driven. There is a real focus on the stories of all five men in the team and as a viewer, you build strong bonds with them all.
Pope’s vendetta against Lorea and Redfly’s money issues are the central issues of the film. The action is great and there is no fear in causing injury to the characters, particularly Ironhead’s gunshot wound.
However, he seems surprisingly alright to travel long distances on foot with little or no food with blood pouring out of his abdomen. Other than this the action feels fluid and realistic, maintaining immersion in the film.
Overall Triple Frontier, is a great film. The action is brilliant, there is a great realism to the story arc and the characters are generally believable. Oscar Isaacs puts in a fantastic performance as Pope, and I am just thankful that he replaced Channing Tatum in this role as a soldier with Peruvian heritage.