Some two months ago, I’d gotten a call from a friend: “If you’re reading this, my cat stole your nice cork chair from the dining room.” This isn’t a new complaint, but it’s one I had yet to experience, thanks to Kathryn Bigelow’s Triple Frontier. A thriller adapted from a nonfiction book about an elite CIA-organized ruse against Mexican drug cartels, the film couldn’t find any customers in mainstream movie theaters. It was seen at art houses, premiere screenings and festivals, and that’s where it succeeded and that’s how it cost $90 million to make. For all its satirical flair and action-movie flourishes, it’s a big enough movie to lure audiences, but not even then. By focusing on the actors—namely, Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam and Pedro Pascal—rather than the story itself, it left audiences in the dark.

Triple Frontier works as a thriller because it isn’t (in fact) much more than a chase film, but that’s less a criticism than an observation. If it had been structured like a novel, Doublecross or Lawless, it would have managed to cram the larger tragedy of the CIA-orchestrated drug deal into its hour and a half. The script isn’t bad, merely a deceptively clever piece of high-security investigative fiction, but the interiors of the film could be perilous for anxious Americans. There is no popcorn, for instance, so you can only feel the tension in the air when watching from 4,000 feet up. Also, because it is several minutes long, there’s no way to enjoy the sight of the stars from the comfort of your living room. And those megavillains probably ought to leave them at home.

Read the full review here.