Based upon a real operation in the 1980’s, The Infiltrator is edgy and tense, with periodic earsplitting bloody horrors that make you jump out of your seat. (After about the sixth time, this gets to seem like an annoying cinematic trick, to quiet the screen before an explosive blast that kills someone.) Despite this little annoyance, the story is exciting and well told by Director Brad Furman and writer Ellen Sue Brown (book by Robert Mazur). It is fascinating to see the day-to-day planning and execution of such an operation, and the film is especially good at showing us the binds secret agents must undergo in forming close alliances with criminals only to betray them. The agony and thrills also come as they act out their made-up personas and have close calls, such as a recording device being discovered.
Bob Mazur (Cranston) has had a long career in U.S. Customs as a special agent. He is eligible to retire, but is always staying on for “one last job.” This operation is to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s Colombian Medellin Cartel to interrupt the flow of cocaine to this country by following the money laundering trail. Mazur’s idea is that this will bring them to the players at the top.
Cranston’s Mazur makes a convincing portrayal of a skilled, experienced agent who is still able to be surprised and even a little flummoxed. It’s an interesting character study into someone who is reliable, stable, and genuine in his private life but adept at taking on a role where he is able to use those traits to get someone to trust him in a basically duplicitous relationship. And for the most part, this character is hardened to emotional pulls, but does show some vulnerability after oh-so-close calls. Cranston pulls this off without even seeming to be trying, a natural. He is a large reason to see the movie.
Diane Krueger as another agent, Kathy, playing Mazur’s “fiancé” is a worthy partner in both acting and in the film’s special operations story. It’s a nice touch to present her as an agent first who is new on the job and rather plain, then show her to be a sharp, glamorous, multi-lingual woman who warmly reaches out to her partner’s contacts. (I remember her especially for her portrayal of a border agent in the TV drama “The Bridge”, someone with a touch of Asperger’s. None of that here!)
Other actors deserving of credit are John Leguizamo as Mazur’s unpredictable co-agent, Amy Ryan as the head of the Customs agency, Olympia Dukakis as Mazur’s flamboyant aunt, and Benjamin Bratt as Mazur’s wealthy mark who befriends Mazur and Kathy.
A thriller that will grab you and make you jump in your seat.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland