Pedro Pascal & Oscar Isaac Gave Leading-Men Vibes in This Gritty Heist Movie
Long before ‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Moon Knight,’ Pedro Pascal and Oscar Isaac teamed up for the action-packed heist ‘Triple Frontier.’
Few actors right now are quite as exciting as Pedro Pascal and Oscar Isaac; both served their due diligence in supporting roles for the early parts of their careers, but now they’ve been accepted as two of the definitive leading men of their generation. Between prestige projects, hit television shows, and the Star Wars franchise, Pascal and Isaac seem to have everything going for them. Their success makes it all the more confusing as to why the one movie they made together, 2019’s Triple Frontier, has gone relatively underseen by most of their fans. It’s infuriating that this gritty crime thriller has gone unnoticed, because it’s a great showcase for both Pascal and Isaac that shows why they’ve both been so successful in recent years.
What Is ‘Triple Frontier’ About?
Directed by J.C. Chandor, Triple Frontier follows the lives of five veterans who struggle to adjust to civilian life in the wake of their service. Tom “Redfly” Davis (Ben Affleck), Santiago “Pope” Garcia (Isaac), Francisco “Catfish” Morales (Pascal), William “Ironhead” Miller (Charlie Hunnam), and William’s younger brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund) all face personal and professional setbacks, turning to ulterior forms of therapy when they’re not offered any support from the nation that they dedicated their lives to. Pope has been working in South America as a military advisor, and sees an opportunity for them all to profit; the Columbian drug lord Gabriel Martin Lorea has a cash house worth $75 million in the heart of the jungle that could be robbed and exploited by an expert special operations team.
While its premise suggests that it’s closer to a 1990s action movie than anything else, Triple Frontier benefits from a script by Mark Boal, the Academy Award winning screenwriter behind The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Instead of using the film as a Peter Berg-esque glorification of masculinity and the military, Chandor takes the time to analyze the morality of these characters, how their fates were affected by institutional issues, and the means they must resort to using the skills that they do have. While it’s a terrific ensemble cast, it’s Pascal and Isaac who stand out as the scene-stealers in the type of movie that studios rarely make anymore.
‘Triple Frontier’ Comments on Heroism
Although it’s billed as a thriller, the first act of Triple Frontier is a rather garish look at the realities of coming home to a country that doesn’t reward you for being a “hero.” Pope has spent his entire life analyzing schematics and taking out high level targets, so when his country offers him no opportunities for advancement, he turns to off the grid work in South America. Perhaps his clients have checkered pasts, but at least Pope has an idea of what their goals are. Isaac shows how Pope’s self-perception colors his reality; he sees himself as a hero as he transports his informant Yovanna (Adria Arjona) to safety. Pope has never truly left the service, and Isaac does a great job at exploring how his willful ignorance leads him to make callous decisions on behalf of his friends.
On the other hand, Catfish is more uneasy. He’s certainly not had a great life post-service, but commercial piloting has at least offered him a chance to utilize some of the skills he earned overseas. However, Pascal shows how easily influenced Catfish is by deceptive offers; Pope gives him a target, a mission, and a reward that instantly washes away any of the skepticism he may have had about doing an unsanctioned military job. Pascal explores how easily unlocked Catfish’s latent rage is; Pope’s words resonate with him because he does feel mistreated, and is this angered at the lack of recognition he has received. However, it doesn’t take long into the mission for the gravity of Catfish’s mistake to become apparent to him.
Pedro Pascal & Oscar Isaac’s Characters Straddle the Moral Line
Pascal and Isaac are perfectly suited for this type of material because in addition to selling the more weighty dramatic material, they’re also bonafide movie stars. It’s exhilarating to watch them execute a complex operation in the middle of the jungle because we’re used to seeing them do similar things in The Last of Us and Moon Knight; the difference is their mission is far less honorable than the ones in their respective genre shows. Their charisma helps the film to pose its deeper questions. Are we justified for sympathizing with these men despite their flaws, and are we willing to root for them when they’re actions are questionable, yet authentic?
Although Pascal looks great flying a helicopter in the midst of heavy gunfire and Isaac is simply awesome when he gets to take down Columbian drug smugglers, they both identify their characters’ ethical standings amidst the frantic heist. Pope is unafraid to be ruthless in taking out enemies in a lethal way, and his overconfidence warns his team that this isn’t the first time he’s resorted to brutal techniques. Pascal shows how Catfish reverses to spouting out military truisms when he’s thrust back into combat; he emulates a “no man left behind” attitude even though they’re most likely not all coming back. He’s so instantly kicked back into routine that he accepts Redfly as his leader, even when the grizzled veteran has shown signs of mental instability.
‘Triple Frontier’s Conclusion Packs an Emotional Punch
After taking its time with the dramatic opening and the action-packed center, Chandor turns the final bulk of Triple Frontier’s story into a survival thriller. Trapped in the midst of the jungle with no one to reward them for their bravery, these men each question whether their actions were justified as they desperately try to return home. Pascal shows a dispassionate reluctance in how Catfish simply proceeds with his duties; he knows he’ll get distracted if he tries to grapple with what he’s taken part of. As for Isaac, he shows how Pope still clings on to being an inspiration to his fellow brothers-in-arm, even if he begins to question the flaws of the mission he designed.
Triple Frontier is the type of movie that Netflix should be making; a mid-budget morality thriller that adds in pulpy genre elements and a terrific cast of stars to do some of their most subtle work. While it’s sadly gone underseen, Triple Frontier is a must watch for fans of both Pascal and Isaac who are simply thrilled to see the two teaming up.
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