Written by: Ellen Sue Brown, Robert Mazur (Memoirs)
Directed by: Brad Furman
Starring: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger
Running Time: 127 minutes
U.S Customs officer Robert Mazur goes undercover to bring down some of the most notorious criminals of the drug world.
Based on a true story, The Infiltrator opens in the year 1985. Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is an undercover federal agent who does sting operations to nab small-time drug pushers. Along with his partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), he devises a scheme to get to the lowest rungs of the Medellin cartel by going after the money and not the drugs.
Mazur takes up the identity of Bob Musella – a personality quite contrary to the discreet family man that he really is. Along with his boss Bonnie (Amy Ryan), they form operation C-Chase; a bogus money laundering scheme to entice the many operatives of Pablo Escobar floating in the US. The ultimate target is a very suave Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), who is a key figure in Escobar’s operations.
Musella refuses to indulge in debauchery on the pretense of having a fiancée – enter Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger). Kathy is a first-timer undercover and slots perfectly into the act. Mazur toils through his act as Musella. Life threatening ultimatums and drive-by shootings aside, he struggles to balance his act with his real persona, as they slowly get intertwined to form a dirty, twisted world full of dismay.
Good Cop, Brad Cop
The Infiltrator is not your typical undercover adrenaline rush – here, words and money are used instead of bullets and flying cars.
Director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) delivers a slow but commendable film with a delicate storyline. It is remarkably written by Ellen Sue Brown, who adapts Robert Mazur’s memoirs. Although it lacks the final punch at many intricate points, it does a good enough job in bringing out the complexities involved in the war against drugs.
Another seemingly odd point was how underused the female cast was. Sure, this movie doesn’t require it, but when you have such an ensemble cast, it becomes a baffling question why they weren’t written with more depth.
However, the movie truly brings out the perilous burdens that undercover operatives have to face on a daily basis. The film is taken from a very interesting perspective, especially after Narcos, which got the world to admire the swashbuckling lifestyle on the bad side.
The editing team were not up to the mark as the entire movie seemed like hops from one scene to the next; some even abrupt. Other technical departments of the movie have done a half-decent job but the music by Chris Haijan needed more life in it to match the premise of the film.
‘Drugs of Choice’: Casting & Acting
Although Robert Mazur was in his mid-30s when the actual operation occurred, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Trumbo) – now in his 60s – pulls off the role with a swagger, which only few could produce on screen. After all, balancing the moral dyads of a person who lives differently on both sides of the law is child’s play for Cranston.
The one who matches his brilliance is John Leguizamo (Ice Age, American Ultra) as Emir Abreu, who puts up an exceptional display. A scene where his informant is shot is a clear indicator of this.
Speaking of the female cast, Diane Kruger (Troy, National Treasure) plays Kathy Ertz effortlessly whereas Amy Ryan (Birdman, Gone Baby Gone) puts in a good shift as Bonnie. Both characters could have done with more screen time. Another stellar performance was by Benjamin Bratt (Modern Family, Snitch) as Alcaino. He did justice to a character torn between morality and profession with ease.
Other notable performances were by Elena Anaya (Van Helsing) as Mrs Alcaino and Juliet Aubrey (Iris, Still Crazy) as Mrs Mazur. The whole cast in general seemed at home with their respective characters.
ALL IN ALL
The Infiltrator is an edgy demonstration of life as an undercover agent in the war against drugs.
Comparisons to classics of the genre can and will be made, but this flick stands out with its slow suspense and psychological impact.
Pacing is an issue, which might repel moviegoers who expect to see shootings and chases, but all things considered, it is a brave attempt at diversifying the cop genre.
WATCH IT IF YOU’RE: In the mood for some good acting OR a fan of undercover cop films.