At first glance, Netflix’s latest original film Triple Frontier may sound like your typical 80s macho-action-thriller flick: A group of former elite Special Forces soldiers go on an Expendables-like heist in South America to kill a drug cartel kingpin and steal his millions.
But with Oscar-nominated director JC Chandor (best known for 2011’s Margin Call and 2014’s A Most Violent Year) at the helm; an A-list cast including Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Pedro Pascal, Garrett Hedlund, and Charlie Hunnam; and a script by journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty fame, the film ends up being so much more.
Triple Frontier is an action flick with underlying moral commentary about masculine pride, the mistreatment of the military and our money-hungry culture – but it’s also a film that unabashedly sports a social agenda, highlighting issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and economic insecurity for dedicated soldiers who have taken more than one bullet for their country.
If the film is steeped in emotional realism, it is because real life special forces members were on the film advisory team and on set to help the actors perform their very best.
Oscar-winner and former Batman Affleck told CNA Lifestyle in Singapore that he found “the emphasis on teamwork on cooperation, purpose and the absence of ego really quite inspiring”.
“You know, I expected that these guys would be, for sure, very hierarchy focused or sort of the prototypical drill sergeant kind of thing and it couldn't have been further from the truth,” he said about his military experience making the film.
“They were extremely warm compassionate, thoughtful, strong, extremely smart men who understood the work – and that you couldn't get anything accomplished unless you work together as a unit. And I think that's a good lesson for you know all kinds of things in life.”
So with all the training they received to get into military shape, do any of the Triple Frontier stars think they’ve learned enough to survive real-life military service like our Singapore boys have to complete?
“I don’t know, that seems like a tall order!” Affleck replied with laugh. “But I do have to say state that one of the vague regrets that I have is that I never served in the military.”
“I think you would pick up a lot, and it would probably be very good for you,” he explained. “And, yes, it's not something that most 18-year-old boys necessarily choose on their own. But to have it chosen for you and [if] everyone else is doing it and you're not missing out on anything... Sociologically, it’s probably a worthwhile thing. You know, national service in general, I think is quite laudable."
Affleck's co-star Hunnam weighed in on the upside of this particular "rite of passage”.
“What I do notice in America, and in a lot of Western places, is that there are no rites of passage that usher boys into men, and there's a tendency to have to go out and seek the line. And to push oneself into very dangerous and silly activities in order to test a sense of adulthood or sense of threshold of danger how far you can push,” said Hunnam.
“And I think that may be that tendency would be mitigated if you actually had some sort of, you know, ritual that you know was sort of an official way to usher you from boyhood into manhood.”
Triple Frontier premieres Mar 13 on Netflix.