Friday, July 15, 2016

Movie Review #455: "The Infiltrator" (2016)

Movie"The Infiltrator"
Director: Brad Furman
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Image Source
US custom officers Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) go undercover as money launderers in an attempt to infiltrate and bring down Pablo Escobar and his cartel. 

"The Infiltrator" is the latest dramatic crime thriller from director Brad Furman, who is probably best known for his crime drama "The Lincoln Lawyer." This film is a true story based on the biography of US customs agent Robert Mazur. It stars Bryan Cranston, who plays Mazur himself, John Leguizamo, who plays Mazur's wild and much more risk-taking partner Emir Abreu, and Diane Kruger, who plays US customs agent Kathy Ertz, who poses as Mazur's fiancé. In 1985, this group is tasked with going undercover as well known, well connected money launderers who hope to infiltrate and bring down Pablo Escobar and his cartel, as well as the financial institutions and bankers that help him hide his money. This is a true story we didn't know anything about going in, except for the name Pablo Escobar, who other than a small, 3 second blink and you miss it walk-by on screen, is not actually portrayed here.

Drug and other true crime dramas live and die by how well their story is portrayed. It doesn't matter how compelling the real tale is, it only matters how it is re-told so the audience can get invested, remain entertained, and stay captivated throughout the movie's run time. Luckily, "The Infiltrator" is a tense, nail-biting crime thriller that keeps you quite engaged and keeps you almost always immersed in what's going on during Mazur, Ertz, and Abreu's undercover mission. Any time movies deal with undercover agents, the filmmakers also need to rely on a consistent level of pressure applied to the audience so we're constantly worried something will go wrong. Here, we found ourselves always waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for that one slip up that might cost our heroes their lives.

The acting in this film is quite amazing. We've said it before and we'll say it again: it's a pleasure to watch Bryan Cranston act each time he's in a movie, and he is fantastic as Mazur. He pulls double-duty of sorts, with his character necessitating a balance between his home-persona, the person he is with his wife and two young children, and his undercover alter ego, who spends his nights drinking and partying and spends his days going to shady meetings with even shadier people. Cranston is able to dramatically shift his personality at the drop of a hat, the mark of a true Hollywood star. There is a scene at a restaurant where Mazur has to flip from being his true self, a loving husband on an anniversary date with his wife, to a lavish, self-important, angry and entitled criminal money launderer in a matter of seconds. This scene is one of the best in "The Infiltrator" and showcases Cranston at his best as well. John Leguizamo is equally great in his own right. Abreu is a character that is right up Leguizamo's alley and is reminiscent of many of the dramatic roles he has played in the past, all while maintaining just a hint of his signature wit and comedic charm. Finally, Diane Kruger is tremendous as Kathy Ertz, who joins the Escobar case as her first undercover assignment fresh out of the academy. She and Bob Mazur get close to one another, entrusting their lives with one another, and though the film tries to sell us on a bit of sexual tension, we as the audience got the sense that their closeness was more to save themselves than it was about a love connection. The rest of the supporting cast also does a good job as well, especially Benjamin Bratt and his imposing entrance. Finally, the film does a stellar job showing the difficulties of undercover work and how agents can often get too close to those they are looking to arrest as they are forced to watch their hard work come to its ultimate fruition.

Though "The Infiltrator" does start to feel a little bit long towards the end, we chalk it up to being methodically paced in order to get the details of the case right while setting the stage for its ultimate payoff in the end. When it wraps up and reaches the climactic finish, all traces of its length nearly disappear at that point because of its captivating finale, though we wish it had been a little more grand in scale. If you enjoy true crime thrillers or movies about people going undercover to bust up a drug cartel, "The Infiltrator" is definitely worth your time, though we think it's worth watching for Bryan Cranston's brilliance alone.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~64%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "The Overnight"

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