Bryan Cranston continues his winning streak with “The Infiltrator” – a film which proves that a true story crime thriller doesn’t need shoot ’em-up scenes every 10 minutes to keep you hooked.
It’s 1985. The War on Drugs is the hot-button political issue and Cranston’s undercover U.S. Customs agent Bob Mazur decides to take-on one, final assignment. He becomes Bob Musella, a hot-shot businessman/money launderer, in an effort to take down everyone involved in Pablo Escobar’s powerful Medellin drug cartel. The operation involves fake identities, fake friendships and even a fake fiancee, Kathy (played by Diane Kruger). John Leguizamo, as Bob’s partner, Emir, does take you out of the moment early on, but you quickly warm-up to him and, following a slow set-up, the film starts to cook.
“The Infiltrator” is based on Mazur’s own book, and he was also an Executive Producer on the film (along with Cranston), a big reason why the script has such an authentic feel. There’s very little action, and yet, a high level of suspense throughout. There’s such a refreshing ease and calmness to “The Infiltrator”, as Bob gets in deeper and deeper, and his life, and those of everyone around him, become more and more in jeopardy. This tone makes the brief jolts of violence incredibly captivating and powerful. A restaurant scene involving Bob, his real wife, an associate, a waiter and a birthday/anniversary cake is one of the best of the year.
Cranston, as usual, is great. He’s in practically every scene, and we go on this exhilarating/nightmare ride with him every step of the way. He realizes too late that he may have gotten in a little too deep this time, making the “What’s Happened Since” wrap-up at the end of the film all the more fascinating. And a possible relationship between Bob and Kathy, which in lesser hands would have been a distraction, is handled perfectly and keeps you guessing to the end.
Benjamin Bratt seems to be getting typecast in these drug cartel movies, but he delivers the goods. Amy Ryan plays the similar tough CIA chief character as she did in “Central Intelligence” (not for laughs here). And Olympia Dukakis (rarely seen on screen since her Oscar-winning performance in “Moonstruck”) is memorable as Bob’s Aunt Vicky, who gets to play a small, but important role in undercover charade.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Infiltrator” gets a B+. Seek it out.
Running Time: 127 min.