Like director Brad Furman’s 2011 film, “The Lincoln Lawyer,” his latest movie, “The Infiltrator,” is an assured piece of filmmaking that spins a familiar tale extremely well. This true-life story is a consistently engaging look at a man and woman living duel lives. Will they get in so deep that they forget who they are? Furman and screenwriter Ellen Sue Brown (who also happens to be the director’s mother) answer that clichéd question with genuine nuance and thrills.
Set in 1985, Robert “Bob” Mazur (Bryan Cranston) – whose real-life counterpart worked as a consultant on Furman’s “Runner Runner” – is a U.S. Customs agent who’s given the chance to retire early and spend more time at home with his wife and kids following an injury at work. Instead, he pursues another job involving Pablo Escobar, who mostly remains in the shadows of this story. Posing as a successful money launderer named Bob Musella, he attempts to cripple Escobar’s organization by bringing down his top people, including Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), a criminal that Bob befriends. Joining Bob on his undercover mission are agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Ebreu (John Leguizamo), who must put aside their personal differences and work together in order to take down some of the world’s most powerful drug lords and corrupt bankers from the inside.
Bryan Cranston, who co-starred in “The Lincoln Lawyer,” is fantastic as Mazur. Rarely do undercover agents in movies feel this vulnerable. Mazur isn’t played as an agent that can take out five guards without a problem, but he’s extremely competent and smart at his job, even if his smarts aren’t always enough for the job. Even in seemingly mundane conversations in “The Infiltrator,” death is only a few flubbed words or a wrongly remembered lie away for the character. The stakes are always high, and Cranston makes the audience feel those stakes in the briefest of moments sometimes. When Robert witnesses two murders, the actor doesn’t play it cool; his response is either of shock or horror. In these extraordinary situations, Cranston reacts normally. The actor helps make the reality and the sense of danger palpable, and the same goes for Kruger and Leguizamo.