Opinion, Reviews

‘Triple Frontier’ gives new life to heist genre

After being in a long period of development hell, going through the hands of many backers, filmmakers and actors, the now Netflix Original “Triple Frontier” released to the streaming platform in March.

The movie is set up as an action adventure, following a group of former special operations forces soldiers, who, for different reasons, decide to rob a Columbian cartel of a cash fortune, kill a ruthless drug lord in the process and keep the money for themselves. Taking place on the Triple Frontier, a remote region of South America where Columbia, Brazil and Peru border one another. For the team this will be partially a straight forward operation, but also the hardest mission they have ever done because unlike the missions they’ve done in the past, they have no back-up or support from the American government.

Like last year’s “Widows,” “Triple Frontier” takes a genre, in this case, the action adventure, and uses it to tell a thoughtful story.

The film does a good job of avoiding common expectations. An issue for many war-themed movies is that certain characters are going to die, and it can be obvious which character and when. Usually, a minor character decides to talk — all of a sudden — about his life back home or his family, and then a sniper kills him. Look at a film like “Three Kings,” which has a similar heist plot to “Triple Frontier.” But in “Three Kings” if you look at the four main characters, it becomes pretty easy to figure out who is not gonna make it. That doesn’t happen in “Triple Frontier.”

If anything, there are moments that feel like a shootout or an unexpected death should happen, but it doesn’t. Instead, it adds a level of uncertainty to the movie. It trusts the audience to follow the story, not explaining certian things about the characters and not giving any real exposition on the Triple Frontier region.

As in any good heist movie, not everything goes to plan and some things go wrong. But it’s what goes wrong that is unexpected. For instance, without giving too much away, one recurring problem is the money itself they have stolen. It’s a fortune, but as large amounts of money tend to be, their treasure weighs a ton. The characters constantly have to decide whether they should leave some of it behind or keep going, which puts them at risk from the cartel chasing after them.

How far they (the characters) are willing to go is another theme. But unlike other movies that deal with greed, the idea of the team members betraying each other is never brought up. These characters are brothers and they’ll do anything for each other. It’s what they’re willing to do to other people. That is where their morality is tested.

With the characters themselves, the movie continues to subvert expectations. In the beginning, the film leads you to believe that some characters are morally shady and others are juster. As the movie continues, these expectations become uncertain.

The movie makes no qualms about who these special operatives are deep down. They’re warriors, but they’re also killers. They are good at something warriors are supposed to do and do well, and that is killing people.

If you are looking for a traditional action adventure, with plenty of shootouts and car chases — while “Triple Frontier” does have a few — you should look for a different movie. “Triple Frontier” goes against those expectations, giving a more thoughtful story. Dealing with some interesting themes, including what it is to be a warrior?

Of course, how veterans would feel watching this movie is something different entirely. The portrayal of the people onscreen may come off as thoughtful, or not. And how it portrays the Triple Frontier region of South America may also be a similar case. It could be considered thoughtful or not. Personally, in that regard, I think it was a bit of both.

“Triple Frontier” isn’t perfect. The story slows down at times, especially in the beginning when the team is being recruited, the characters are interesting, but they didn’t always feel defined by each other and the soundtrack feels random. It plays good songs, but there didn’t seem to be a theme.

As a movie, “Triple Frontier” is a well-made and acted character study. If you’re willing to watch something that takes itself seriously and moves at a slower pace, then it’s a movie worth watching. If you have these expectations of an actioned packed adventure, then you will have no idea where “Triple Frontier” is going to go. I expected one thing to happen, based on all of the past films I’ve seen, and I got something different. And I respect “Triple Frontier” for it.


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