Director: Brad Furman.
Screenplay: Ellen Brown Furman.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Joseph Gilgun, Juliet Aubrey, Amy Ryan, Yul Vasquez, Olympia Dukakis, Jason Isaacs, Art Malik, Said Taghmaoui, Juen Cely, Rubén Ochandiano, Simón Andreu, Christian Contreras, Michael Paré, Carsten Hayes, Daniel Mays.
“This is what I do. I’m an undercover narcotics agent. I sit with murders and bait men and I lie. I lie my ass off”
After their collaboration on The Lincoln Lawyer in 2011, Director Brad Furman reunites with Bryan Cranston and John Leguizamo once again. Most of the positivity surrounding that film was slightly overshadowed by Matthew McConaughey’s renewed invigoration for dramatic acting (or the start of the McConaussance as it came to be known) while the likes of Cranston and Leguizamo filled in as support. The film itself was a decent enough legal thriller and now with The Infiltrator, Furman explores the other side of the law. Only this time, his fringe players take the central roles.
Plot: Alongside partners Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), Federal agent Bob Mazur (Bryan Cranton) goes deep undercover to infiltrate a drug trafficking organisation that reaches all the way to Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The deeper Bob goes, though, the more danger he puts himself and his family in until he’s so deep he’s left with no choice but see it through to the end.
There’s really nothing going on in The Infiltrator that we haven’t seen before. It’s old but, admittedly, not yet tired ground we’re covering here; undercover agent and devoted family man putting his neck on the line to infiltrate some serious criminal players. Needless to say, it affects him personally and any comparisons with Donnie Brasco would be well founded. With Bryan Cranston you’d also be forgiven for having flashbacks to his sublime, star-making work on TV’s Breaking Bad. Like I say, we’ve been here before.
That said, there’s still much to recommend The Infiltrator. Based on the real-life story of Robert Mazur and working from a script by his mother, Ellen Brown Furman, Brad Furman has an impressive handle on events. He displays some stylish direction and has a keen eye for period detail. Ultimately, though, he keeps an even pace and manages to hold your interest while delivering several thrilling set-pieces.
There’s also an impressive cast of familiar faces in supporting roles with Leguizamo, in particular, lending fine support. The lesser known but steadily rising Joseph Gilgun (This Is England, Preacher) makes a welcome appearance and it always pleases me to a see very talented low-key actor make some headway in bigger films. He’s a chameleon like performer that’s thoroughly deserving of more work and one that I’ve been watching with much anticipation.
But, ultimately, there’s one thing that shoulders this film and that’s the leading man himself. Cranston delivers very strong work and, as always, shows a versatility and a complete command of his character. As touched upon, there are hints of his Walter White and/or Heisenberg from Breaking Bad. It may be a little too close to the bone for some but I welcomed seeing Cranston do it all again.
Robert Mazur’s story is just as tense and exciting as anything that was depicted in Joe Pistone’s story as Donnie Brasco but because The Infiltrator has been filmed afterwards, it puts it at a real disadvantage before it’s even had a chance. This is a shame really as Furman and his cast rarely put a foot wrong. Unfortunately, comparisons will be made and this happens to arrive a little too late for it to achieve any freshness or originality.
It’s not genre defining by any means but I also feel like I’ve been unfair to the film as it’s certainly not a complete right-off either. Despite it succumbing to formula, it still has many stand out scenes and maintains its momentum admirably. Cranston is most impressive and the film is worth it just for him.
Trivia: In Breaking Bad (2008), the characters of Hank and Walt Jr. both mention a book written by the real Robert Mazur who actor Bryan Cranston plays in this movie.