Review: 'Triple Frontier' Oscar Isaac Takes the A-List to the Jungle

5 hyper-masculine movie stars playing ex-special forces soldiers who head into the jungle to take out a drug lord. Did I fall asleep and wake up in 1987? If so, can I stay here because this is awesome! Look, I don’t actually long for a return of the Canon movie days where pistols could fire 100 shots and the hero never gets hurt (unless it’s an arm shot…you know, for drama) but there’s some manner of primal satisfaction watching the good guys take it to the bad guys with nothing but their grenades and good ole’ ‘murican spirit. What I’m trying to say is I love action movies so when I heard that Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascale, and Garret Hedlund (I guess) were all headlining a new action flick from Netflix I was more then stoked. Of course, it wasn’t the movie I expected at all….and that ended up being a great thing.

While on his latest mission to take out Colombian drug Lord Lorea Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Oscar Isaac) learns through his informant and lover that Lorea is hiding out in his jungle estate with the entirety of his cast. Pope sees a way to not just cleanse the world of Lorea’s mayhem but to make a nice little retirement out of the deal. To kill Lorea and recover his cash Pope must pull his former special ops team members out of retirement for one last job. Tom “Redfly Miller (Ben Affleck) is now selling…or trying to sell real estate, William “Ironhead” Miller (Charlie Hunnam) is a motivational speaker for the military, his brother Ben Miller (who didn’t get a cool code name for some reason and is played by Garrett Hedlund) is a regional MMA fighter and Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pedro Pascale) is a pilot who’s just had his wings clipped. Basically….no one is happy, so it makes Popes job of convincing these guys to go to another country and murder a man to steal his money all that much easier.

Ok, so I already mentioned that this was not the movie I thought it would be, it is definitely not a throwback to 80’s hyper-violence and machismo. It was much more real and definitely more thoughtful then those films, by MILES. All the way up to the assault on Lorea’s compound it feels like it’s just about to go down that road but every time it gets there it makes a sharp left. The subject is treated with the respect of someone honoring what the real-life counterparts of these characters would be. There’s enough action to keep the explosion junkies hooked but the real draw of this movie is the tension. If you read any books about combat or the military one of the things you’ll hear repeated over and over again is that the job mostly consists of waiting and planning with insane spikes of adrenaline here and there. 1 week of training and planning for 10 minutes of combat. The film doesn’t quite replicate that…I mean that would be insanely boring, but it does wait just long enough to let you relax before hitting the next action beat. I use the term relaxed lightly because I was never exactly relaxed. There’s a genius in the way the standard action tropes are used to wind you tight just before realizing that “no, I guess they aren’t going to do it the way everyone else does”. One character in particular had no less then 5 moments where they would have been killed in a standard action movie. Without giving too much away this character could have been knocked off without affecting much so you are waiting for him to bite it. Time after time he’s the one elected to “Go check it out” where you just know the shit’s going to hit the fan and he’s going to be the first one to catch that breeze. Yet, they don’t take the low hanging fruit. All of this builds up to the movie’s most climactic and gut-wrenching moment that I did not see coming until just seconds before. If I had to pick something I didn’t like about the movie it would have to be Ben Affleck’s character arc. Really this is just being nitpicky and I’m pretty sure there’s a solid explanation that I’ll get to at the end but the guys personality just flips a switch. We’re introduced to him and he’s been beaten up by the world, he sucks at his job, his wife doesn’t want anything to do with him and he can’t make ends meet, but even with all of that he seems like a decent person and the last one of the group that wants to have anything to do with the plan. Once they find the money he becomes this reckless and ruthless sociopath. The junior psychologists out there will tell me that this is his true self and once he’s back in his element he fully embraces it…but if that’s the case then they should have alluded to it in the talks between the other team members. Like I said, nitpicky, but I have to show both sides.

Triple Frontier is almost a thinking mans action movie. It’s not deep enough to really merit that accolade but it’s close. If you’re looking strictly for a movie where ex-soldiers rain down hellfire on a random Colombian drug lord then this isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for something that checks the action boxes along with a few more then I would definitely recommend booking away the 2 hours to check this out. My only parting thought is this. Is Charlie Hunnam going to ever get the film series he deserves? The guy is magnetic, a magnificent actor with the physicality and demeanor to pull off being an action hero. That’s not really a common mix of traits. Let’s all forget about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (which I totally enjoyed) and the less then stellar domestic box office of Pacific Rim and give this guy a good damn franchise already.

3.5 Out of 5