Netflix, much to the chagrin of some in Hollywood, is continuing to infiltrate all areas of the moviemaking world. Fresh off winning multiple Oscars for Roma, the streaming service seems to have designated 2019 as the year it truly takes over. Films from big-name directors — most notably Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman — will be coming out all year long, with the latest being the star-laden crime thriller Triple Frontier.
As the film begins, Santiago Garcia (Oscar Isaac) is seen helping with a drug bust in South America. When he gets wind of a huge amount of cash hidden at a drug king’s home in the jungle, he sets out to recruit some former Special Forces buddies to help him steal it. They include Tom Davis (Ben Affleck), Ben Miller (Garrett Hedlund), William Miller (Charlie Hunnam), and Francisco Morales (Pedro Pascal).
Each member of the group is now leading a life that is at stark odds with what they expected upon leaving the military, making them vulnerable to greed in a situation like this. Naturally, each member also possesses a certain skill crucial to the mission, talents that will come in handy if they are to succeed in not only raiding the house, but also schlepping the haul out of the country.
If you’ve seen pretty much any heist movie, it’s clear from the get-go that not everything will go smoothly. But the manner of those obstacles and how effectively they are overcome determine the worthiness of this type of film. It already has a sheen of credibility thanks to Oscar-nominated co-writer/director J.C. Chandor and co-writer Mark Boal, who, along with executive producer Kathryn Bigelow, has made Oscar-winning military movies like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.
The filmmakers give the story a propulsion from minute one that rarely lets up. While the film never goes too deep on why the five men are so good at what they do, thanks to their ease of communication, there’s never a doubt that they are elite soldiers who know how to handle themselves when things go to hell. They are also confronted with a number of moral quandaries, and it’s the treatment of those situations that makes the film more than just your standard thriller.
A few elements hold it back a bit, most notably why the film is called Triple Frontier in the first place. Without any foothold in the plot of the film, it’s a generic action movie title that should have been rethought. And while the suspension of disbelief holds up for most of the running time, there are a few moments where characters go over the line and break the spell of the movie.
The five main actors work as well together as you would hope. The film requires hyper-masculinity at almost all times, and each of them in their own unique way provides the requisite testosterone. Isaac is the de facto leader, and he exudes both a calmness and intensity that suits the role perfectly.
Were this a standard theatrical release, it’s easy to see Triple Frontier competing for the top spot at the box office for a few weeks or more. It’s as good a crime thriller as any movie fan could want, and one that demonstrates that Netflix is staking its claim as one of the premier movie studios.
Triple Frontier debuts on Netflix on March 13.