Tag Archives: Oscar Isaac

Review: Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier

Even in the few hours that have passed since I saw this movie, there are some aspects of it that I like considerably more than I thought I did, and some considerably less. In the end, though, it all sort of balances out to the general reaction I had while watching Triple Frontier, which is that it’s… okay.

The premise is a fairly well-worn but reliable one: five former special ops soldiers (Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal) combine their skills to pull off a large-scale heist in South America. They rationalize it by saying they’re taking what they “deserve” and what the military did not provide them with. And they do so by stealing the money from some legitimately bad people. However, given that the heist itself takes place pretty early on in the film, you can probably guess that things don’t quite go as planned.

Triple Frontier does get points for mostly avoiding the swagger-y, brainless pitfalls that many an action movie before it has stumbled into. There are certainly cliched situations here, but the film also takes the time to explore the moral repercussions of the violence that the quintet of leads inflict. On the whole, there is a thoughtfulness and a critical eye that adds a very welcome layer of complication.

So the script does provide some compelling ethical quandaries. But, boy, does it also feature some clunky dialogue. This is surprising coming from co-writers Mark Boal and J.C. Chandor, each of whom have earned Oscar nominations for their writing in the past. (And, in Boal’s case, a win!) This is especially apparent with Hedlund’s character, who we learn little about apart from his penchant for yee-haw one-liners that sadly give the actor little to work with.

Some of the rest of the cast fares better. Isaac and Pascal, in particular, are super charismatic and seem to understand the somewhat tricky balance of tones the film is going for. This is not a film highly focused on character development (proven by a pretty bland “getting the band back together” opening half hour) and I’d argue that no one is at their best here. But the cast is still seasoned and make it all fun enough to watch.

Chandor’s handle on the action, though, is really the high point of this film. In the hands of a lesser director, Triple Frontier would almost certainly have that cheap look and feel of a low-grade action flick. Instead, Chandor translates the gravity of what is happening through the use of precise, clear directing during the action set pieces. There are probably fewer action sequences than some people will go into it expecting, but the ones that are there (and, in particular, a gripping late-stage car chase) are so well executed that the film is wholly satisfying from that standpoint.

In the end, Triple Frontier could have been excellent but made some compromises along the way. Especially when it comes to the script. It’s handsomely made (including some nice cinematography from Roman Vasyanov), though, and if it sounds like your kind of movie it’s certainly still worth a watch.

Ex Machina (2015)

Ex Machina 2
Ah, this is one of those movies that comes frustratingly very close to being very good. While Ex Machina has lots working in its favour, though, it feels underdeveloped, and like it’s always just about to fully click into gear, but never quite does.

Looking at the previous films that Alex Garland has written, this problem perhaps isn’t a surprising one. Sunshine and Never Let Me Go are both fascinating, low-key sci-fi studies. But while they take a more cerebral approach to the genre, there’s a coldness to them. Those two films are a bit more successful than Ex Machina, however, because of the scale that they operate on; part of the interest comes from the world that their characters are navigating.Ex Machina, which takes place almost entirely in one man’s house and with four characters (one of whom doesn’t talk), feels too removed. The characters are interesting enough, but Garland doesn’t let us see enough into them to completely pull off the “character study” approach.

Also, this is Garland’s first time directing. He does a fine job behind the camera, and the film contains many beautiful shots. There is an effectively claustrophobic atmosphere. But another director perhaps would’ve known which threads to tug on to make this story really come alive.

The cast here works well. Domhnall Gleeson continues his streak of playing likeable chumps, while Oscar Isaac plays a delightfully bizarre scientist/narcissist type. Alicia Vikander, meanwhile, continues her intriguing transition from Sweden to Hollywood, playing a beguiling A.I. creation. However, while all individually good here, the cast didn’t work as well as a unit as I would’ve hoped, given how few characters the movie has.

It’s always nice to see a sci-fi movie that takes a less common, more thoughtful approach. Ex Machina comes recommended if you like movies like Gattaca or the aforementioned Never Let Me Go. Though flawed, it’s a promising directorial debut from Garland, and certainly one of the more artful offerings you’ll see at the multiplex this year.

6/10