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Film / Triple Frontier

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Triple Frontier is a 2019 American action thriller film directed by J. C. Chandor and written by Chandor and Mark Boal, from a story by the latter.

Five friends, all military veterans, reunite for a recon job with the target being Lorea, a ruthless South American drug lord whose compound is located in the Amazon rainforest, near the tri-border between Colombia, Brazil and Peru (hence the title). Once they get there, they decide to rob the millions in cash that Lorea keeps instead. Loyalties are then put to the test, and a chain of unintended consequences are unleashed.

The cast includes Oscar Isaac as Santiago "Pope" Garcia, Ben Affleck as Tom "Redfly" Davis, Charlie Hunnam as William "Ironhead" Miller, Garrett Hedlund as Ben "Benny" Miller, Pedro Pascal as Francisco "Catfish" Morales, Adria Arjona as Yovanna, Sheila Vand as Lauren Yates and Reynaldo Gallegos as Gabriel Martin Lorea.

The film was produced by Netflix and released on the service on March 13, 2019. It also had a limited theatrical release on March 6.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

Triple Frontier provides examples of:

  • Anti-Hero Team: Four ex-military and a private military contractor embarking on a heist that qualifies as a crime.
  • Anyone Can Die: Redfly bites it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The team makes it home, but Redfly has died and the biggest part of the money had to be abandoned in a crevasse in the Andes. Then everyone in the team donates their (not unsignificant, but much less sizeable than expected) share of the money from the heist to Redfly's family, so it was pretty much All for Nothing for them personally, or so it seems... until Pope is given the geographic coordinates of the money by Ironhead, so he'll certainly plan an operation to go back there and pick it up.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • One of the young villagers who followed the team to avenge those who died on the cocaine field gets killed by Redfly with a shot to the head.
    • The very next second, Redfly abruptly meets his demise when the other young man ambushes him from behind and shoots him in the head.
  • The Caper: A crew of ex-soldiers is assembled to do recon job on a drug cartel's compound, and Pope comes at each of them to convince them to join in. Then they simply decide to steal the cartel's money.
  • Caper Rationalization: Redfly has his daughter's future more than personal gain in mind throughout the heist. And the team robs a ruthless drug cartel that has blood on its hands.
  • The Cartel: The five friends plan to rob Gabriel Martin Lorea, a South American drug lord.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The young man with the yellow football shirt is obviously seething with revenge at Redfly because he shot his dad. A couple of scenes (and several hundred miles through the Andes and a few days later) it turns out that he chased the team down and shoots Redfly on the head.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Ironhead is shown to have an excellent memory, being able to remember the number of times he's given a speech to new recruits. At the end, he turns out to have memorized the location and coordinates of where the team dumped the money.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Quite a few F-bombs are thrown around when the team is cold-camping in the Andes.
  • Crapsack World: Many people the team comes across from the jungle all the way to the ocean live off the drug trade and are armed, which shows said trade's ugly prominence on the economy and life of these areas. The team finds itself forced to shoot at Trigger-Happy family men and young men more than once.
  • Dead Star Walking: Ben Affleck is the biggest name to star in this film, and his character gets killed quite abruptly with a headshot about 2/3rds into the picture, without any last word.
  • Death by Materialism: Redfly, in retrospect. Had he not insisted to overload the van and later on the helicopter with more money, the helicopter wouldn't have crashed and the perilous journey on foot to the ocean that cost him his life wouldn't have happened.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Redfly is built up by the film as having at least as much, if not more, importance to the narrative as Pope, only to die very suddenly with thirty minutes of runtime left in the film.
  • Due to the Dead: In addition to the money, the team carries the body of Redfly, not wanting to leave it to rot in the Andes.
  • Dramatic Irony: The team steals more money than they'd originally planned to or could even feasibly transport. As a result, they gradually lose more and more of the cash, until they end up with peanuts compared to even their original score and Redfly in a body bag.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • In his speech before the team goes on the heist, Redfly insists that no women or children must be hurt.
    • After shooting the Trigger-Happy cocaine-cultivating villagers, Redfly and Pope leave a chunk of the money to the village's chief to compensate the families the best (and only) way they can.
  • Everyone Is Armed: The male villagers who cultivate cocaine on the field the helicopter crashed in all carry handguns, and they start to draw them at Redfly and Pope while the two are still peacefully trying to negociate with them. Redfly and Catfish then have no choice but to gun them down.
  • Fatal Flaw: The greed of some team members leads to major troubles that derail the entire operation. Ironically, Redfly, whom everyone considers the most moral and balanced of his team, is the one who ends up making the robbery go off the rails, forcing everyone to be the prey of a manhunt that results in many deaths, including his own, just because he wanted to steal even more money and causing all sorts of logistical issues in the end.
  • From Bad to Worse: The team planned to pull off the heist without killing anyone bar Lorea. They end up forced to kill all of Lorea's henchmen when greed pushes them (mostly because of Redfly) to pick up more money. Then the helicopter crashes in a cocaine field, and the team finds out that the locals are armed and Trigger-Happy, and the body count keeps piling up.
  • Gold Fever: Redfly's glee when destroying the walls of Lorea's house to take more money is comparable to this.
  • Gut Punch: Redfly's abrupt death, which signals that Anyone Can Die.
  • Hellish Copter: The helicopter the team uses to escape with the money after the heist is overloaded with money, so much so that its engine can't withstand both the load and altitude when they ascend over the Andes, and it ends up crashing in a cocaine field.
  • Idiot Ball: It is established early on that Redfly is a highly skilled special operator and tactician obviously conditioned to remain calm in stressful situations.He really should have known that overloading his vehicles with so much money would cause them to break down and leave him and his friends in a dangerous place. The same goes for all other team members.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal, very good friends with each other in real life, previously both performed in the 2006 Off-Broadway production The Beauty of the Father.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The team takes measures to ensure they will strike when the children are not around. They narrowly miss the children when they make their getaway.
  • It's Personal:
    • Pope really takes it personally to kill Lorea, given how long he's been trying to bring the cartel down when in his military force.
    • The cocaine farming village boys wanting to avenge the death of their fellow villagers or family members.
  • Made of Iron: Ironhead takes a bullet in the side during the heist, and after some brief first aid never makes mention of it again. The entire crew is involved in a chopper crash - Benny even falls out of the bottom of the chopper in midair - and walk it off.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Only Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal are placed below their respective names on the poster. The others have their names switched.
  • The Mole: Pope's girlfriend Yovanna is his mole in the compound.
  • Money to Burn: Benny starts burning a banknote, then a bundle, then a whole bag of the money to make a campfire despite Redfly's orders to cold-camp. It's justified in-story, as there was too much to practically move anyway.
    • Plus there was still plenty of money inside the walls of Lorea's mansion when the team blew it up.
  • Mood Whiplash: That funny Cluster F-Bomb camping scene? It's followed right away by a shootout and the death of a main character the next morning.
  • My Greatest Failure: Redfly is haunted by his many past mistakes.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The two trailers make the viewers think Lorea's cartel will be a major threat and relentlessly chase the team after their getaway. Lorea's men are actually quickly dealt with in his house, and the main threats the team encounters afterwards are cocaine farmers and a heavily armed Peruvian gang.
  • Not What I Signed on For: Catfish says this word for word when he finds out there are children in the compound as the team is doing reconnaissance job before invading it.
  • One Last Job: Four out of the five friends left their military career behind and don't have much income since they're back into civilian life, while Pope isn't happy with being a private military contractor. They end up risking their lives one last time to get crazy rich.
  • Private Military Contractors: Pope works in a private military force that fights drug cartels.
  • Red Baron: Four out of the five have nicknames: Tom "Redfly" Davis, Santiago "Pope" Gomez, William "Ironhead" Miller and Francisco "Catfish" Morales.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: The five friends' goal is to rob a drug cartel from its money.
  • Short-Lived Aerial Escape: The team's helicopter evacuation over the Andean mountains doesn't last very long due to them overloading the aircraft with money.
  • Suicide Mission: The recon job is already risky, but the mission turns into this as soon as the team decides to rob the cartel and cross several dangerous areas full of armed people to escape.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Redly gets abruptly shot in the head, with no last word whatsoever.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Ironhead is giving a speech as part of his Establishing Character Moment that mentions his difficulty in re-integrating with civilian life, common for soldiers.
    • There are only five - six counting Yovanna - people in on the heist itself at all, which would be a ridiculously small number to hit a cartel kingpin's home if the kingpin wasn't also a deeply paranoid man who only keeps a small guard force with him.
    • The heist goes near-perfectly at first because they thoroughly reconnoitered the target and have a layout of the compound and precise information on the schedules of the family and the number of guards. The two blind spots they have are where exactly the money is kept and what was past where Yovanna was stopped in the building - both of which cause them serious problems.
    • Lorea never leaves his money, as Pope mentions, but a drug lord with a fortified home is going to have a panic room.
    • Redfly joined in on the heist specifically to finance his family. His Gold Fever when he finds out how much money is actually there for the taking causes most of the problems the team faces on the way out of the country, to the point that Benny remarks that in all the time he's known Redfly, Redfly has never missed a "hard out," the time they absolutely need to be getting out of the area.
    • The team takes steps to cover their tracks - killing Lorea to sow confusion in the cartel, using locally-sourced weapons to make it look like local gangs staged the attack, burning down the house to deprive the cartel of the remaining money and evidence, and take it a step further when things start to go bad by killing all the guards, so nobody could identify them. As a result, they get no pursuit from the cartel and only face opposition from people they encounter on their way out of the country.
    • The team took far more money than they planned, so the chopper the team obtained to exfiltrate can't handle the weight at the already-high altitude of the Andes, resulting in a crash.
    • After an unfortunate shootout with some cocaine farmers, the team leaves a large amount of money with the village chief to square things in the only way they can. Not all of the villagers are onboard with this, and two of them pursue the team to cause problems.
    • Redfly is a highly-trained special operator, but there's nothing he can do when one of the young men from the village pops up behind him by surprise and shoots him in the head.
    • The team is forced to abandon the lions share of the money in a crevice so they can get out with their lives and Redfly's body. Ironhead takes the obvious step of memorizing the coordinates so the money can be retrieved.
  • Unflinching Walk: Benny doesn't look behind him when walking towards the vans as the compound explodes.
  • Unsafe Haven: It turns out Lorea has no safe. He turned his house into the safe, by hiding the money in hollow compartments of its walls, which makes it really easy for the team to steal once they figure this out.
  • Wall of Weapons: Pope has hidden plenty of weapons on the walls inside a container for the team to use to pull off the robbery. They're all sourced in the country so local gangs will be suspected.
  • You Killed My Father: Two sons of the men Redfly and Pope had to shoot after the helicopter crash follow the team for revenge in the Andes. One of them kills Redfly.