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Triple Frontier
★★★☆☆
First run Screening room

In his forth feature, J. C. Chandor, one of the most exciting young directors to never catch fire at the box office, takes on the typically crowd-pleasing military action-adventure genre and attempts to give his signature “thinking man’s version of a film we’ve all seen many times before” spin to it. Chandor’s first picture was the brilliant début Margin Call, a more pointed, character-driven, narratively astute, art-house version of Adam McKay’s The Big Short (released four years later). All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford alone in a sinking boat on the open sea, was Chandor’s equally cerebral take on the nail-biting survival genre. A Most Violent Year, with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, was an unexpectedly sideways take on an American period-piece crime drama. 

His latest, Triple Frontier, wants to a sharp, contemporary mix of popcorn paramilitary adventure movies like The Dirty Dozen (1967), Uncommon Valor (1983), or The Expendables (2010), and thematically complex classic adventure films like The Professionals (1966) or The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). On this level, the film is not a success. It comes off more like a popcorn picture with aspirations of importance.  

Oscar Isaac stars as a private military adviser in Colombia combating drug crime with little success. He hits upon the idea of reuniting his ex-military pals to kill a notorious drug lord and steal his millions of dollars. First, he must round up the gang, who are all struggling because the US military doesn’t value, honor, or take care of its heroes (one of the film’s more resonant themes). While some of the guys are reluctant to get “back into the shit” (what becomes of men who’ve seen as much violence and caused so much death is one of the less successful themes), the guys all agree to take the mission on.

Blessed with a good cast and Chandor’s ability to stage action, the movie proceeds perfectly well, but it’s far too predictable and doesn’t develop its characters sufficiently to make it at all memorable, or to drive home its ideas with any real force.

Produced for Netflix, this is the very definition of a Netflix Original Movie. If you’re in your living room flipping around the streaming app’s home screen and hit play on this, you will not be disappointed. Triple Frontier delivers exactly what it promises, but it’s not the exciting, thought-provoking picture we expect from a great director. Originally developed by Paramount, to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow from an original script by her frequent collaborator Mark Boal (the two made The Hurt LockerZero Dark Thirty, and Detroit together and both serve as executive producers on this film) the project floated around with many actors attached but never got a green light until Chandor stepped in and Netflix stepped up.

Just as a good microwave pizza can satisfy an urge almost as well as going out and getting a few fresh slices from a great pizza joint can, you’re not going to savor the frozen cheese and bread the way you would a hand-tossed pie.  Like most Netflix Originals, this film will barely register on the cinematic landscape and will be completely forgotten within a year or so —by both those who saw it and by those who might just have seen it’s thumbnail on their screen. But, in a year of movies as week as 2019, this is still one of the better mediocrities.

Twitter Capsule:
J. C. Chandor’s film of Mark Boal's ex-military-guys-on-a-mission / heist movie is one of the year's better disappointing mediocrities. Almost the definition of a Netflix Original Movie in that it's pretty good and delivers almost everything it promises, but will be instantly forgotten.

Directed by J.C. Chandor
Produced by Charles Roven, Neal Dodson, Alex Gartner, and Andy Horwitz

Screenplay by Mark Boal and J.C. Chandor
Story by Mark Boal

With: Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, Pedro Pascal, Adria Arjona, Jeovanny Rodriguez, Juan Camilo Castillo, and Reynaldo Gallegos

Cinematography: Roman Vasyanov
Editing: Ron Patane
Music: Disasterpeace

Runtime: 125 min
Release Date: 13 March 2019
Aspect Ratio: 2.11 : 1
Color