After years of intense action on the wrong side of the law in “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston trades the bald head for luscious ’80s hair and a “white hat” in “The Infiltrator.” Directed by Brad Furman, the film follows the incredible true story of federal agent Robert Mazur who went undercover to discover the faces involved with smuggling thousands of tons of cocaine into the U.S.
Cranston plays the undercover agent with authenticity. When he first appears on screen, he fools both the audience and his target into thinking he’s a drug-seller. He takes the case to find and ultimately disrupt the flow of cocaine into the country. Through careful maneuvering and trust building, he works his way through the network of drug lackeys until he finally meets and befriends one of Escobar’s top lieutenants: Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt).
The pacing is slow and meticulous. Unless, you’re familiar with Mazur’s story, the film keeps you guessing. Cranston plays Mazur as a man who will not stop pulling on a thread until it’s completely gone. Yet, as he embeds himself ever deeper into the criminal world of drug smuggling, Mazur begins to wonder how far is too far? After all, he has a wife and children to consider.
He is aided by the streetwise Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), who gets him inside with the Miami cocaine scene and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) who plays his faux wife. Through careful staging and planning they dig ever deeper and inch closer to their goal of reaching the drug kingpin. In a lot of ways, the film is like a “Mission: Impossible” film—minus the out of control action and high-tech gear. This film is meticulous in its storytelling.
“The Infiltrator” is not gory, but there is a feeling like a loose slowly tightening. Cranston seems to relish Mazur’s conflicting desires. Mazur can’t resist getting into the game, even when he has the chance to retire. Yet he is conflicted by the need to protect his family. (There are several nail biting moments when ask yourself, “Why doesn’t he just put his family in hiding?”) At the same time, he can’t stop pulling on the thread that leads him closer and closer to the prize.
As the film enters the climax, there is a moment when Mazur feels regret. He’s gotten to know not just the faces but the people behind the cocaine operation. Those who are higher up the chain are likable and even relatable. However, what they do is not only wrong but evil. Their huge fortunes are built on the insatiable addiction Americans have to cocaine.
“The Infiltrator” is classic movie-making. Furman keeps the plot going with expert direction and editing. The film moves slowly, but it works. In a day and age of high-action, saturated special-effects, it’s refreshing to watch something that inches towards a highly effective climax.
– Mesa resident Kaely Monahan is producer of Popcorn Fan Film Reviews.