When your place of work gives you an opportunity to retire, you take it! U.S. special agent Robert “Bobby” Mazer (Bryan Cranston) has made a career out of being a chameleon, infiltrating deep into enemy territory to get the information needed and the right people put away. Now, the government has fully turned their attention to the War on Drugs and getting cocaine off of the streets.
Bobby is needed again for what is surely to be his most volaitile assignment: Pose as Bob Musella, money launderer extraordinaire, to get to the absolute top of the drug food chain, one Pablo Escobar. In the process, he’s in danger at every corner, where one false move, action, or word can lead to his demise, his family’s demise, or even his newfound friends’ demise.
Undercover movies. War on Drugs movies. Sometimes they exist separately, but just as likely to overlap on the Venn Diagram. The Infiltrator is the latest movie to add on that Venn Diagram. Though it can be pretty conventional and not near the heights of some better, similarly themed movies, The Infiltrator is still a good adult-oriented watch for this time of the moviegoing season.
To use a football phrase, director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawler, Runner Runner) doesn’t so much to win the game as he does manage it. In this case, the game being the film. There’s nothing bad about it, and it clearly takes some inspiration from other features, especially with regards to that specific yellow-ish-at-times saturation filter. It’s par for the course, but certainly a little dull only because this has proven to be a genre where a director can get a little inventive with the overall aesthetic.
Plot-wise, the biography breaks no new ground, and stumbles a bit with time (the occasional date is referenced but any concept of time is not found). But, it does find its footing as the movie goes along. The soundtrack and the score are good, and there’s considerably more tension than the trailer indicates, Brief yet truly brutal moments of violence that only reaffirm just how dangerous this undertaking is.
The conventionality would be more of an issue if there weren’t such a great cast. Thankfully, The Infiltrator has one, and is buoyed by it, starting with Bryan Cranston. Unlike his last starring period piece where it could be argued that Cranston was sort of caricature-y, his role as Mazur is more rooted in reality and simply more believable. If there were a flaw to his performance, or rather written character as Cranston is not responsible for, it is that he never really struggles internally with the matters at hand. Perhaps the real Mazur never did struggle, but the movie seems to want to make the audience believe like he is and it never really registers.
Honestly, some of the supporting cast gets to play around with more layers than its star does. John Leguizamo initially seems like nothing more than comic relief, but gradually gets rounded as the movie goes on and motivations are revealed. For what also initially starts out as feeling noting more than a bit role, Diane Kruger does well as a rookie who may be in over her head and possibly succumbing to the other side. For my money, I’d say that Benjamin Bratt turns in the best work next to Cranston as one of Pablo Escobar’s right hand men, and his character’s dialogue with Mazur offers a lot to his character and even tests who the audience is supposed to side with.
The Infiltrator may lack some of the general pizzazz and true substance that so many films this genre have, and its story is rather straightforward in the general biography mold, but thanks to an great, all-around cast and legitimate tension, it is a watch that grows on one throughout and slowly but surely hooks the viewer, like a certain stimulant.
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