Over the past few years, an actor who has consistently delivered excellent performances in his films has been Bryan Cranston. Following on from Breaking Bad, Cranston has delivered strong performances in films like Argo, Godzilla, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trumbo and The Infiltrator looked like another strong film to add to that collection of excellent performances. After seeing the film, I have to say, this is up there with Trumbo as one of Cranston’s best big screen performances, and it helps that the overall film is strong as well.The film concerns Robert Mazur, an agent for the US Customs Service who repeatedly goes undercover, infiltrating drug organisations to get close to the dealers and get them arrested. Under his most recent identity of Bob Musella, he is able to get into bed with some of the largest drug cartels, including being involved in money laundering for Pablo Escobar, mainly through the middle man Roberto Alcaino. However, he ends up having to get more people involved as he claims he has a fiancee whilst with some of the dealers and this later causes difficulties with his family life. The main thing the film does well is create a great air of tension regarding the undercover nature of Mazur. One wrong move made by him or anyone in his team will result in his death and this creates an air of unpredictability throughout the film as we constantly wonder what Mazur is going to do to ensure that his cover is not blown. This leads into another strength of the film, that being the idea of getting close to the people you are investigating whilst undercover and how this can potentially lead to difficulties when it is finally time to arrest them, with some really interesting moral dilemmas coming about as a result of this. There are a few areas where the film doesn’t quite work though, mainly with Mazur’s family. There are interesting elements such as their reaction to finding out Mazur was offered retirement with full benefits after being injured at the start of the film and Mazur’s wife seeing him in character during their anniversary dinner but these elements are not explored enough and, as a result, detract from the wider plot of the film.
The performances though are where the film shines. Bryan Cranston is excellent as Mazur, brilliantly showing the duality of the character and how committed to the character of Musella he is, whilst at the same time, showing that he does have commitments to his family that he wants to honour. He also does a good job showing the obsession of the character which makes it understandable why he does what he does when undercover. John Leguizamo is also good in the film as another undercover agent, his personality being more brash than Cranston’s in a way that fits getting involved with the actual dealers and he also shows the more dangerous side of the operations. Diane Kruger as Kathy Ertz, the agent assigned to be the fiancee for Musella, is strong, showing that, despite being new to the field, she knows what to do to avoid detection and it’s her performance that shows the more personal side of the infiltrations. Benjamin Bratt makes for a great villain as Roberto Alcaino, there’s this sense of danger that he brings to every scene he’s in but he also shows the character to be incredibly charismatic and charming, part of what makes him so compelling to watch and again adds to the idea of personal connections to the targets. Elena Anaya does a good job as Gloria Alcaino, even if the writing for the character is not that strong, the same being true of Juliet Aubrey as Evelyn Mazur. There are also good performances in smaller roles from Amy Ryan, Said Taghmaoui, Olympia Dukakis and Joe Gilgun (who, between this, Pride, Preacher and This Is England is fast becoming one of my favourite younger character actors), although some of them do not get enough time in the film, most notably Jason Issacs (incidentally, hello to Jason Issacs).
Overall, The Infiltrator is a very compelling film to watch, mainly due to the strong feelings of tension throughout the film and an incredibly central performance from Bryan Cranston but there are moments where the plot feels a bit underdeveloped, mainly in the scenes focusing on Mazur when he isn’t playing Musella. Still, this is a strong film as a whole and I recommend you watch it.
My Rating: 4/5