The Infiltrator Review

The Infiltrator

I’ve seen my share of true-life crime stories adapted for the big screen, typically ranging from the Goodfellas to the bad and the ugly.

The Infiltrator, for me, falls within the upper range.

The film, an adaptation of the same-name autobiography by Robert Mazur, recounts Mazur’s (played by Bryan Cranston), career as a US Customs Service agent who, in the 1980’s, went undercover to stop following the drugs and start following the money.

In short his goal is to, well, infiltrate a large-scale drugs network. And in the 1980’s, the networks didn’t come much bigger than that headed up by Pablo Escobar. Just ask anyone who watches Narcos.

Mazur adopts the guise of crooked businessman Bob Musella and proceeds to befriend subordinate after subordinate within Escobar’s organisation, slowly climbing his way to the top.

The Bank of Credit and Commerce International, shown to be complicit in financing Escobar’s operations, is also targeted by Mazur.

Paying lip service to the mismatched buddy formula, Mazur is aided in his role by Emir Abreu, depicted as a loose-cannon type and gamely played by John Leguizamo.

As Mazur gets closer, we witness the toll it takes on his domestic life and more importantly on his sanity.

There is strong support on hand from Amy Ryan and Diane Kruger as Mazur’s boss and fake-fiancée respectively, and it was a pleasure to see talent from this side of the pond, such as Joe Gilgun and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, holding their own on the big screen. Nice to see Olympia Dukakis in a small turn as Mazur’s aunt too.

Juliet Aubrey is particularly good as the wife who endures almost as much as Mazur himself, though without any professional gain. The restaurant scene where she gets momentarily and unexpectedly dragged into Bob Musella’s world is a standout.

And of course, there is Cranston himself: great in such a duplicitous role, and pretty much the inverse of Walter White. Here it is the criminals who are being deceived and the family which is the secret.

Brad Furman does a terrific job of drenching the film with menace, and you really feel the danger that Mazur faces from one second to the next.

Sad then, that this tone is not maintained through to the film’s climax which, although probably in keeping with real-life events, feels somewhat of a damp squib.

The film makes some other dubious choices.

Some of the drug dealers are dealt with in a sympathetic light (the bankers not so much): Benjamin Bratt’s portrayal of Roberto Alcaino is as a family man and entrepreneur who is wronged by the treacherous US government.

It also feels like there is not enough time devoted to exploring why Mazur does what he does. It is explained at several points that he could retire yet he continues to risk his life and his marriage. For what? Two hours running time and we are still none the wiser.

Overall though, this is a tense and gripping crime drama which definitely hits more right notes than wrong ones.

Conor Brennan

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September 2016
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