Director: Brad Furman
When I heard the premise for this “based on true events” crime thriller, the first thing that went through my mind was Donnie Brasco, Donnie Brasco, repeatedly. Amongst a few other movies of similar tales The Infiltrator was inevitably going to be compared to Donnie Brasco which gave it an awful lot to live up to. Sadly it didn’t but that doesn’t make it a bad film. Just not as good.
Set in 1986, Bryan Cranston plays federal agent Robert Mazur who works on what he tells his wife will be his last undercover operation and what an operation he hopes it will be. He plans to get inside the trafficking network of one Pablo Escobar, yes that one. Alongside his partner, albeit reluctantly at first, Emir Abreu (Leguizamo) Mazur sets himself up as a master money launderer and sets about gaining the trust of Escobar’s most trusted lieutenant, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt).
Once Mazur is in bed with Alcaino, so to speak, the lines between loyalty and duty become particularly blurred. This is brought furthermore into focus by the introduction of Diane Kruger as Kathy Ertz. After Mazur has to invent a fiance when trying to maintain fidelity to his actual wife, Ertz is assigned to go undercover as his invented fiance. The couple become close with Alcaino and his family and the burden of the inevitable betrayal weighs heavily on both Mazur and Ertz.
The film is good, but not fantastic. I feel it needed to be structured more like a three-hour epic for the set up to the betrayal to be perfectly laid. You know what’s coming so that isn’t a spoiler as such. The film is always going in that direction is fact is to be maintained. There just isn’t enough ground work done in the 120 minutes to lend real emotion to the climax. It’s all, very much, by the numbers.
This is not to say the cast don’t play well, they do. Cranston himself, though, struggles to shake the Walter White persona but then the roles carry a lot of similarities but then there’s a danger he’s being typecast. John Leguizamo, in particular, stood out for me. I’ve always felt he’s been underrated and under used since his early appearance as Benny Blanco from the Bronx in Carlito’s Way back in 1993. Here we see him being just as enigmatic again but with a nice back drop of loyalty and determination. Benjamin Bratt is very smooth as Roberto Alcaino. Clearly an ambitious and driven man in what he does but still takes that time for his family in the most domestic of situations. Finally, Diane Kruger lends a nice touch without leaving any lasting impressions, she is after all just invented window dressing for Mazur. It’s worth mentioning a couple of British stars who also appear. Joseph Gilgun, on time out from Preacher, is on good lively form as Mazur’s favourite informant and now underworld guide and Jason Isaacs and Art Malik also have smaller roles but show their true professionalism and give more than adequate performances.
The verdict: 3.5/5 Stars
The film is a solid crime drama with worthy performances but is let down by a screenplay that doesn’t give the film room to breathe.