Triple Frontier isn’t just a heist movie, it’s a comment on America
It would be easy to dismiss JC Chandor’s debut Netflix Original, Triple Frontier, as just another heist movie. One with a big name cast, admittedly, but familiar ground none the less.
That’s not an insult. Who doesn’t love a heist movie? Bad guys, good guys, explosions, car chases, don’t even get us started on the general heisting itself. But failing to look past that tag would be to miss a trick. At its core, this movie – five ex-special forces military men reunite to steal $75m from a notorious drug cartel in one of the most dangerous spots in the world – is an allegory of a condition at heart of America. It’s about what happens to its servicemen once they’re deemed no longer fit for service.
“It touches on these guys who are required to sacrifice themselves, physically and mentally for their country,” explains Oscar Issac – the Golden Globe nominee who's one five male leads along with Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal. “These guys aren’t really helped when they come back. It's just like… snap! Now you're a civilian.
“The difficulties with that transition is huge, economically and emotionally. I don't think that there's a lot of infrastructure for these guys. When they go in, this should be something that gets talked about. I think there’s a heavy burden that they take that isn't always recognised.”
“It raises questions that I think are really relevant now,” agrees Ben Affleck. “It’s about what happens to you when everything that you've invested your life in learning, the way you contribute to society, suddenly feels irrelevant.
“These are things suffered by people who have carried this burden of being deployed over and over and over, of seeing so much combat and death and killing and suffering - and then they’re asked to make this abrupt assimilation into civilian life. I think the movie ask us to be more sympathetic and appreciative to the people making that transition.”
For Chandor, much of that story came from a personal place.
“My father and my grandfather were both in in the military,” says the 45-year-old Academy Award-nominated director of Margin Call and All is Lost. “I don’t think I ever would have come up with a heist movie about veterans, but when I read it, it resonated. I saw my father, his relationship with his combat experience in Vietnam, and how that affected him. When he came back the reception he – and other soldiers – got from our country was very unfair. The leadership hadn't taken much of the responsibility as it should have done. Somehow, the soldiers were shouldering the burden instead. I felt with that knowledge there was something I could bring to the story.”
For a director whose themes often toy with a notion of the American Dream, this was an opportunity for him to look that the flip side of that coin, too.
“The movie, first and foremost, was an opportunity to direct a heist movie, but one that is also a wonderful metaphor for warfare over the last 20 years. These characters have gone through so much, and we as taxpayers have spent trillions financing warfare in the hope of bringing peace. But at the very top, one eye is always on the business opportunities that come with it. Our interests are never purely altruistic.
“I’m a child of immigrants and I feel like I’ve been cradled by what America can do at its best… but there are prices to pay in our system. There isn't much of a social safety net. When I got into my adulthood and suddenly didn’t have healthcare, all these things that I was used to because my father had been a great success in his life – I saw the other side of it. Suddenly, I’m a struggling filmmaker with no health insurance for 10 years. It made me realise pretty quick that, for all the great things it does, America also just lets you live or die… literally.”
Triple Frontier streams on Netflix from March 13