From Director Brad Furman comes The Infiltrator, the real life story of how U.S. Customs went after Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Does the film tell a compelling story or does it just spit out facts with no narrative flow?
It is 1986, and Bob Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is a customs agent who has just finished his last undercover job. He has the option to retire, but he opts to stay on the job when his boss, Bonni Tischler (Amy Ryan), announces that U.S. Customs will be opening a case against Pablo Escobar. Mazur comes up with the idea to go after the money instead of the drugs and he is paired with a new partner, Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo). Initially, Mazur and Abreu butt heads, but they slowly come to a mutual understanding and respect. As Mazur and Abreu work their way into Escobar’s network as money launderers, they make friends that they will eventually have to betray if they manage to make the case. One night in particular, in an effort to stay faithful to his real-life wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), Mazur makes the error of mentioning he has a fiancée. That forces the agency to bring in another agent to play his future wife. The agent selected is rookie undercover Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger). Mazur and Ertz get especially close to Escobar money man Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) and his wife, Gloria (Elena Anaya). The lines between real life and undercover work blur for them as they close in for the kill.
The Infiltrator is a compelling film with a tension-filled story. I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting to see if Mazur would be discovered by those he was investigating—and there are several close calls. We’ve seen undercover movies where the agent gets in too deep and can’t escape the fake identity, but Mazur has a powerful anchor to his regular life in Evelyn and their two kids. When his undercover life unintentionally intersects with his private life, Mazur becomes terrified and terrifying to Evelyn. The only real issue I had with the film were some editing issues that left it with a compacted feel. At times, I wasn’t sure how much time had passed in the story, nor the location of some of the scenes. A film like this should have been about a half hour longer to let the story breathe a bit more. In fact, it probably would have worked better as a miniseries on HBO. The soundtrack is also great, with a nice collection of period tunes.
The cast does a great job with Cranston delivering an excellent performance as Mazur. The film is based on the real Mazur’s memoir and Cranston shows all facets of the man’s personality as he weaves his way through his case. Leguizamo is also great as Abreu, the wildcard of the team. I also really enjoyed Bratt’s performance as Alcaino. His portrayal is nuanced and it was interesting to see Alcaino’s views on the drug trade and the juxtaposition of a dangerous man being a loving family man. Kruger is really great as Ertz and she has great chemistry with Cranston. It was great to see her character grow as an undercover agent and impress Mazur. Aubrey also has nice chemistry with Cranston and has a few really great scenes with him. Olympia Dukakis also puts in a nice, humorous cameo as Mazur’s aunt.
Overall, The Infiltrator is a really good entry into the crime-drama genre. It has great performances and powers through some minor script issues to be an enjoyable time at the theater. It’s a refreshing film to see in a summer full of overblown blockbuster movies.