It’s the world that Bryan Cranston has already traversed before, in the hit television drama Breaking Bad. The only difference here is that the same world looks slightly different in director Brad Furman’s lenses. I’m referring to the relatively more vicious world of The Infiltrator, a film based on actual events. And this time Cranston plays someone – a real-life figure – who is on the other side of the law. It’s his best and most endlessly watchable performance since Breaking Bad’s Walter White. The whole film rests on his shoulders.
However, this is a film that slipped under most people’s radars when it released in early 2016, even though the reception has been mostly positive; but not enough to get audiences to flock to the theater, I guess. Yes, some parts of it are derivative – Johnny Depp’s Donnie Brasco had pretty much the same plot – but at the same time there are parts that are still fresh and deliver the necessary white-knuckle tension to satisfy your thriller movie fix.
Set in the 1980s and adopting an appropriately retro aesthetic, the film follows the terrifyingly risky escapades of a DEA agent called Robert Mazur who played a major part in bringing down some of the biggest names in the Colombian underworld, including Pablo Escobar. Mazur assumed the identity of a shady money launderer called “Bob Musella” – a name he picked up from a random grave because the deceased had the same birth date as his – and sets up an impressive sting operation to infiltrate Escobar’s drug empire.
Leading a double life such as this naturally comes with its usual set of risks and pressures: his wife begins to wonder if he is turning into one of “them” (a doubt which was raised by Brasco’s wife too), he can’t even have a private anniversary date with his wife without someone from the “other side” unexpectedly interrupting it, and his wife’s strong suspicion of the nature of his relationship with his “fiancé”, a fellow agent called Kathy (Diane Kruger). But Mazur has his principles and this is why he is an immensely likable character – he never indulges in sexual relations with other women, not even for the purpose of putting up a charade.
And then there’s, of course, the usual paranoia: A shadowy figure is always following him and the members of the Medellin Cartel in the States test his loyalty by putting him in life-threatening situations that set your pulse racing. And there are moments where he is suspicious of his fellow agents, especially one played by John Leguizamo – the actor is his usual entertaining self – and an assortment of colorful and unpredictable Colombian gangsters. Benjamin Bratt makes a strong and striking impression as a dapper-looking and eloquent drug kingpin called Robert Alcaino. His friendship with Mazur is reminiscent of Depp and Pacino’s from Donnie Brasco.
The film is fabulously directed by Furman and is a must-watch for those who are huge fans of Cranston and also those with a weakness for stories involving gangsters/undercover agents who put their lives on the line and go to any lengths to accomplish their lofty goals. Fans of Narcos will love it. Cranston is essentially the “Tony Montana” of undercover agents, with his swanky looking clothes and luxurious cars. There is one particular scene where he goes into Walter White mode and it’s almost like that scene in The Godfather where Michael Corleone guns down Captain McClusky. It’s sudden, explosive and scary. And Escobar does make an appearance and the actor playing him looks so much like the man himself.