Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, the Oscar-winning writer behind The Usual Suspects and the two most recent gravity-defying entries in the Mission: Impossible series, has a story he likes to tell about his directorial debut, the 2000 crime thriller The Way of the Gun. In the script's last section, two thieves carry $15 million in a suitcase or a bag during a robbery, but in production Benicio Del Toro, the actor playing one of the criminals, asked McQuarrie how much $15 million would actually weigh. After all, he'd be the one lugging it around on his shoulders. McQuarrie asked the prop guy, who told him it would fill 27 printer paper boxes and weigh "like 1,200 pounds or 1,500 pounds." As McQuarrie tells it, finding out the actual weight "revolutionized the sequence" by forcing him to think about the reality of the physical demands of the situation.
Netflix's new military thriller Triple Frontier, which debuted on the streaming service on Wednesday, is like that anecdote on steroids -- or, perhaps more accurately, crates of Muscle Milk. The burly squad of ex-military commandos pulled together by Oscar Isaac's Santiago Garcia, a private contractor overseeing deadly drug enforcement operations in Colombia, is a ragtag team of action movie archetypes: There's the sad, real-estate-selling divorced dad who looks like he'd rather be vaping (Ben Affleck); the noble, buff warrior stuck giving rote speeches about his past glories (Charlie Hunnam); the taciturn, hat-wearing helicopter pilot the filmmakers didn't bother outfitting with a backstory (Pedro Pascal); and the other dude (Garrett Hedlund) who does amateur MMA fights. The whole gang's here.
The story is only unique because of the intricacies of its premise, particularly the difficulties the men have transporting the massive amount of loot they steal from a drug kingpin living in a compound hidden in South America. After Santiago recruits his buddies for one last (very illegal) mission, they case the the place, draw up a plan, and then carry it out with deadly precision. But, inevitably, they get greedy and then they get sloppy. They find so much money in the kingpin's house -- bags and bags and bags -- that moving it from one location to another becomes a physics problem you'd find on the SAT. Will it fit in the van? The helicopter? The boat? On a broader thematic and spiritual level, will the money also fill the voids in their hearts?