Logline: A group of former Special Operations soldiers get more than they bargained for when they reunite for a heist job of a South American crime boss.
Directed by J.C. Chandor / Written by J.C. Chandor and Mark Boal / Produced by Charles Roven / a Netflix Film / an Atlas Entertainment Production
Starring: Ben Affleck / Oscar Isaac / Charlie Hunnam / Garrett Hedlund / Pedro Pascal
In the filmmaking meta-narrative, the studio is the bad guy and the creative artist is the good guy. Guillermo del Toro’s Best Picture winner The Shape of Water was pitched to Fox Searchlight (soon to be Disney) as a black and white picture to reflect its chief influence The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Searchlight sensibly said, in del Toro’s words “Absolutely fucking not.” The film ended up scoring 3 additional Oscars for direction, production design and score. It made $195 Million worldwide on a roughly $20 million dollar budget (an incredibly well sourced one at that.) The beautiful green plays a role in the story; from the colour of the bad guy’s car to the infection growing in his bitten fingers.
I would imagine an alternate scenario in which a project by a celebrated Mexican filmmaker gets acquired by Netflix ready-made for Oscar glory were it not already for ROMA. For all its messaging and purported importance, Roma is a personal film that doesn’t work for me. The Shape of Water is an interesting mix because it comes off as equal parts personal and like it was conceived for a greater audience (even if it came to be known to many as ‘that fish f*cking movie!’). Filmmaking is a collaborative art, successful often at its most combative, where the passion lies. Looking at Triple Frontier, a movie Netflix picked out of development hell, it’s easy to imagine it was conceived to satiate the male demographic but beyond that there’s nothing specific. Why is it these foreign frontier Netflix films like Sand Castle, Outlaw King and especially Okja that are made in such high esteem can only muster a passable reaction? The freedom Netflix boasts about for leaving their directors be might be what holds the quality of their films back. Perhaps Triple Frontier could’ve used more creative combat. By all accounts it should have been a classic. Instead it just settles for being watchable.
As our heroes lug a pile of cash over the mountains it feels much like the way Netflix got this project done. When the protagonists rationalize their plan altering actions, it’s easy to imagine the filmmakers doing the same to get the film off the ground. Art wins when a good film is made, and Triple Frontier is certainly watchable thanks to two great actors that anchor the film, and a director who unquestionably knows his craft (watch his legit scene breakdown for The New York Times). As long as audiences and Film Twitter (not film critics) continue to fufill and demand simpler courses of action and cinematic comfort food, Netflix will continue to deliver just that.
Maybe only that.
*J.C. Chandor batting 3 for 3 (Margin Call, All Is Lost, & A Most Violent Year) seemingly choosy, teaming with Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) with the greatest resources to create something comparatively inferior speaks volumes about the Netflix business model.
*One of the most popular actors in the world coming off playing Batman, and another in the middle of the most popular film franchise of all-time. Given the pedigree, should this have been better?
*I feel we haven’t gotten a good testosterone fueled action movie in a while. Will they continue to be less common if they don’t land as hard with audiences? Maybe, or perhaps do not expect the same studio that made Bright to make a better delivery when their most carefully planned route this decade was Suicide Squad.
Triple Frontier is now streaming on Netflix.