Unlike a majority of films recently acquired by Netflix, “Triple Frontier” was heavily advertised and anticipated by many. It seems to be a growing trend for Netflix to swipe films from production limbo and fuel the dead projects with top stars and Hollywood funding. “Triple Frontier” certainly finds itself among such company, and director J.C. Chandor can’t quite turn the once dead production into a successful project.
On paper, this film should be successful without much directorial insight. The classic, formulamatic Hollywood storytelling elements were all present, down to the A-list actors trying their best to cover up their lack of chemistry on screen. Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac and Charlie Hunnam are all great actors in their own right, but, even though none are strangers to the action genre, they all feel out of place when sharing the screen. Aside from Affleck’s inconsistency, each of the leads are successful in their own right.
Aside from the cast, the other familiar elements of the film work pretty well. The reluctance of the characters to join the crew for “one last job,” a phrase muttered every 20 minutes in almost every “Fast and Furious” film, the moral dilemma of the illegality of their mission, and the inevitability of something going awry, all certainly not new elements by any stretch of the imagination. However, Chandor’s familiar elements are the most successful aspect of the film. Chandor tackles the cliches head on and does not try to mask them in any way, and his meta-awareness of the necessary plot points positively translates to the narrative.
However, the perfect genre film concoction cannot be complete without the inclusion of the unfamiliar to balance out the anticipated aspects associated with the genre. Chandor certainly goes all-out trying to bring unfamiliar into his otherwise cliche film, but he relies heavily on actors that lack even slightest on-screen chemistry. Chandor seeks the unfamiliar within the relationships of his characters, but the lack of quality character development in the screenplay, which Chandor co-wrote with Academy Award-winning writer Mark Boal, and the over reliance on chemistry that simply isn’t present, causes the film to slow to a drag in the final act.
Another unfortunately annoying, yet expected among recent Netflix releases, is Chandor’s smug approach at an underlying message. Throughout the entirety of the film, nothing about the screenplay, acting or directorial approach to the film justifies its final act shift toward a “deeper” meaning. Chandor plays right inline with every B-movie action film in the books, and then throws the first 90 minutes right out the window and shifts his message from the action of the film to a middle-school level philosophy argument about the true nature of war and greed. Chandor’s self-satisfying approach to the message of the final act is more cliche than the expected genre film cliches implemented throughout the first and second acts. This is not to say that genre film cannot support positive, underlying themes throughout the runtime, but B-films that seek redemption through a pseudo-intellectual approach of morality at the end of film cannot be justified.
Overall, the familiar faces make for an amusing two hours, but the action pieces cannot push the film through its lack-luster final act. Chandor would have benefited from shaving about 20-25 minutes off of the runtime and remaining within the B-movie vein that he was trying to capture.