There was potential here. There really was. Not that it was a particularly original premise; soldiers taking advantage of a chaotic situation to make off with a lot of shady money has been done in Kelly’s Heroes, Three Kings, Renegades, and Sabotage (though that one was DEA, but same general idea). But for a good movie, an original premise isn’t an absolute necessity, just that it’s done well, with style.
Triple Frontier tried. It just didn’t try hard enough.
And that’s where the whole thing broke down. It wasn’t as glaring as some of the failures that Hollywood’s churned out when it comes to military movies. There wasn’t a lot that was really cringe-worthy. The characters weren’t bombastic caricatures. The action wasn’t so over-the-top that it became unbelievable. (Mostly. More on that later.) But too many of the details didn’t come together.
And I’m not even necessarily talking about the physical details, either. Having multiple members of the team dressed in wildly different sets of gear, from plate carriers to old woodland Interceptor vests, and carrying a variety of M4s and an AK makes some sense when, in Oscar Isaac’s character’s words, all the weapons, gear, and ammo are “sourced through the local economy.”
But it’s really the characters and their decisions where things fall apart. Warning: I’ll try to minimize it, but things get slightly spoilery from here on out.
First of all, none of the characters are all that fleshed out, as much as the writers halfheartedly try. They don’t so much have dialog as they have speeches. But that’s not the worst part.
Affleck’s character (no, I can’t honestly remember the names of any of the characters, either, which is another bad sign) goes from the reluctant, concerned one to the greedy loose cannon, as quickly as flipping a light switch. Now, there’s a way that that could be made believable. It’s entirely likely that once he crossed a certain moral threshold, he just said, “The hell with it. All in.” The problem is that we didn’t get to see that. (The fact that Affleck has one facial expression the entire movie doesn’t help.) There’s a lot that just happens in this movie, without any preparation, or even clear explanation. One significant act, without which none of the caper could have gone down, happens offscreen without any mention whatsoever. You’ve got to figure out that it actually happened from context, leaving you wondering if you missed something. (You didn’t. They skipped it.)
That’s not the only gap. Things are mentioned without being shown. “Let’s just use our day packs.” You haven’t seen a day pack on any of them for the last hundred miles. They make the approach to their target in a pouring-down monsoon, with cammie paint on their faces. As soon as they make entry, however, they’re dry, and there’s not a trace of camouflage paint anywhere. The whole movie is rife with these kind of jarring missteps.
While I’ve been mostly negative here, I should say it’s not a terrible movie. It’s just not a good one. It’s certainly not as good as I could have hoped it would be. And the main reason is that the writers (and presumably the director) were just lazy.