Triple Frontier

Netflix

Movies have always loved the military. The elements that we instantly connect to the military, such as bravery, loyalty, brotherhood, heroism, selflessness, dedication, strength and courage, are ideal fodder for the Hollywood fantasy. And even though superhero movies have recently taken the lead in the heroism department, cinematically speaking, movies will always welcome military stories and characters. They are the most recognizable and often the most fallible of our heroes, which makes them the most realistic, the most human—and, because of that, the easiest to root for. If I asked you to stop and try to think of movies about the military or featuring military or ex-military as main characters, I guarantee you’d be busy for a while.

I bring this up because the fact that the main characters in the new Netflix original film, Triple Frontier, are all ex-military is a key element of the movie. It’s about 5 former American Special Forces operatives who reunite for one more mission, which is as about as pre-written and as familiar a concept as a moviegoer could see. And while Triple Frontier certainly doesn’t shy away from any of your preconceived notions, it also, thankfully, doesn’t linger in them either. Directed by J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) and written by Chandor and Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), Triple Frontier stars Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund as former members of an unidentified elite military strike team (SEALs? Special Forces?) who come back together when Isaac’s character enlists them to go after a brutal Mexican drug lord who happens to be sitting on a pile of cash. Boal has made a living creating characters with sometimes murky motivations, and the various forces that drive each of these characters to agree to the mission are not always clear or sensical, but it is impressive how quickly we get to know these characters in a short amount of time. It’s clear Chandor and Boal do not want to linger in exposition for too long. Nothing lingers too long in this movie, maybe because if you were given too much time to think about what’s going on, you’d realize how ludicrous some of it really is.

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Maze

Lightyear Entertainment

Against the backdrop of Brexit, now may be the perfect time for movies to remind us that the British Isles have a long history of tumult and chaos within its borders. Now that there is widespread panic and confusion about what Great Britain may look and feel like in a post-Brexit Europe, it was not too long ago in Britain’s history that another political upheaval was taking place. But while Brexit is based on political manipulations, the civil unrest in Northern Ireland in the ‘70s and ‘80s, commonly known as “the Troubles,” were seeded in religion and love of country, two powerful forces which resulted in a terribly violent and chaotic chapter in Irish—and British—history.

There have been many movies about or set against the backdrop of the Troubles, my personal favorite being Jim Sheridan’s 1993 gem, In the Name of the Father. Nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, In the Name of the Father is about an Irish man wrongly convicted for an IRA bombing and the English lawyer who takes his case. Daniel Day-Lewis only made 20 movies in his career (he still claims to be retired now), and I consider this one of his best performances. In the Name of the Father spends a great deal of its time in the prison where Day-Lewis’s character was sent after his conviction. It’s not uncommon for movies about the Troubles to be set in a prison. Hunger (2003), for example, which launched both director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender’s careers, is about the famous IRA hunger strike that took place at a Northern Ireland prison in 1981. And now there is a new film set two years later in that same prison. Maze is both the name of the movie and the name of the prison that, within the span of two years was the site of two watershed moments in the history of the Irish Revolution: the hunger strike (1981) and, in 1983, the most famous prison escape in British history, where 38 IRA prisoners managed to find a way out of the most famous prison in Europe. It is a compelling story that was overdue for telling, and the film is just as intriguing and dramatic as you would expect.

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