By Parinyaporn Pajee
It’s been almost 10 years in the making and has seen countless actors associated with the cast but the military action thriller “Triple Frontier” has finally made it to the screen and once again, the credit goes to Netflix.
The project was first touted by former journalist Mark Boal, who wrote and produced the Oscar-winning movie “Zero Dark Thirty” directed by Kathryn Bigelow back in 2010, and originally had Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp in the lead roles.
Nine years later, a tighter tale of five friends, all military veterans, reuniting to rob a South American drug lord for their personal profit, has emerged and is now streaming on Netflix after a short run in selected US theatres earlier this month.
The latest Netflix movie "Triple Frontier" stars, from left, Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal as a group of ex-soldiers who reunite to rob a drug lord in South America.
Producer Chuck Roven was in Singapore last weekend along with actors Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund to promote the film. He explained how it was developed a decade ago at Paramount Film Studios but ran into difficulties until it was picked up by Netflix and handed to director JC Chandor, who also collaborated on the script with Boal.
British actor Hunnam, 38, told the press that the evolving incarnations of this film didn’t diminish its attraction, at least for him.
“We were really excited when the Netflix project landed on our desks. We knew that a film co-written and made by a director of JC’s calibre would be original and exciting but also substantial in terms of the themes it was dealing with,” says the actor who has appeared in “Pacific Rim” and the TV series “Sons of Anarchy” and took the title role in Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”.
Affleck concurred, adding that any project that’s been around for that long obviously had something worthwhile otherwise no one would keep coming back to it and trying to get it made.
Isaac plays Santiago "The Pope", who discovers the whereabouts of the hidden money and persuades his fellow special forces team to steal it.
“When a movie falls out of favour or is not conceived, people walk away and no one ever talks about it again. This one kept coming back up because at its roots is a story about soldiers who do come home and face very difficult challenges,” the 46-year-old actor said.
The story focuses on Santiago “The Pope” (Oscar Isaac), whose working as a security contractor in South America. After learning that a drug lord keeps a massive amount of money stashed away in a secluded jungle location, he starts planning the heist. He reconnects with his former Special Ops team and convinces them to join him in stealing the loot. Tom “Redfly” Davis (Affleck) is a divorced dad and a failed property salesman, William (Charlie Hunnam) is managing his brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund) on the MMA circuit, and Francisco “Catfish” (Pedro Pascal) is a new father who has been busted on a drug charge. Now out of the army and struggling to pay their bills, they readily agree.
“You’ve been shot five times for your country and you can’t afford a new truck,” Santiago tells Tom to convince him to join the mission.
It is important to note, however, that “Triple Frontier” is neither a psychological drama on PTSD soldiers nor an action heist. Rather, it mixes in heist drama with camaraderie in a storyline that doesn’t focus on high-octane action. And the stunning scenery from the locations in Hawaii, Colombia and California ensures the movie is never boring.
Struggling in civilian life after coming out of the military, the special force soldiers embark on the mission that doesn't go as planned.
The title comes from the notorious border zone between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil and has been kept even though the story has changed.
Prior to the start of shooting, the cast attended a workshop with former special force members who shared both their fighting skills and their civilian life experience and thoughts after demobilising.
Hunnam adds that they also served as onset military advisers.
“It was an amazing resource. On the set, these military advisors were always watching but very rarely came and told us how we should have played a scene. But there is a moment in the film where I sustain an injury. And of course because of the Hollywood dynamic, it was way overacted,” says Hunnam. “They came over and told me about a couple of their reallife experiences involving massive injuries and told me that I needed to hold it together. It was amazing to get that sort of insight in real time and make sure we depicted situations correctly.”
Hedlund, who has played a soldier in six of his eight films, learned both from the special force team and his personal experience – he comes from a military family.
Director JC Chandor, second right, on the set with actors Isaac, centre, and Hunnam, second right.
And although the story focuses on a group of exsoldiers, Affleck says “Triple Frontier” is not so much a male story but rooted in the factual truth that in the Special Forces, men make up the majority.
Asked whether the film portrays toxic masculinity, Affleck says that it reflects the hard truth that 95 per cent of the people pointing guns at each other or killing each other are men. “That is simply true. This kind of violence is perpetrated by men, on men. Of course women are victims of violence as well, but this way of solving problems through violence is endemic to men,” he says.
“So it’s natural to tell a story about men. There’s no real emphasis on hierarchy or being tougher than other people. It helped me understand that true strength comes through compassion, empathy, teamwork and camaraderie.”
Hunnam also believes that “Triple Frontier” is not a film that celebrates “toxic masculinity”.
“It’s a specific story about specific people. The reality is that the special forces are dominated by men. It is slowly changing I think there are a couple of female Navy SEALS, Rangers and DELTA… We certainly explored the question of whether or not the mission would have unravelled in quite the way it did if there had been more gender equality and we had a woman’s point of view in there,” he explains.
Affleck, who was in the spotlight last year after going into rehabilitation for alcoholism, was also asked about his career and why he hops between independent and blockbuster projects.
“People are trying to make movies that are interesting in multiple ways just like it used to be in the 1990s and early 2000s. I started out with “Chasing Amy” and “Armageddon” and then did “Shakespeare in Love”. I have tried to fuse the sensibilities of popularity and artistic in my career. Some are successes, others major flops and that makes it an interesting challenge,” says the two-time Academy Award winner.
Asked about the futility of fame, Affleck says: “You accomplish something and people get to know about that, but if you’re an actor whether in films, on TV or, these days, on a streaming platform, you kind of become a star in your own reality show. You’re not writing, you’re not directing and you have very little control over things that you don’t necessarily want to participate in,”
Hunnam adds: “I would say almost everything about being famous is somewhat futile and irrelevant. Fame should be the perfume of great deeds. I’ve been in this business for 20 years and it seems the defining characteristic for real success in this business is the desire to be a storyteller with purity and authenticity.
“Success in this business is predicated on wanting to do as good a job as you can and being compelled to tell stories. Those that come in coveting fame and money and all the trappings tend to crash and burn really quickly.”
Hunnam adds that acting is a difficult job and makes for a difficult and uncertain career. “Obviously you can’t compare it to being a Special Ops member, a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon but it is a fairly difficult job and it’s fairly difficult to sustain. People sometimes ask me for advice, which I find preposterous. I tell them to look into their heart. I tell them, ‘if you need to do this, if your life won’t be fulfilled without doing this, then do it but you will have to dedicate everything to work and be prepared to make sacrifices and face hardships. And if you’re successful, then you have to keep moving forward and to keep going to work.”