By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of crime-thriller The Infiltrator with Bryan Cranston and Diane Kruger. This is a perfect film to fill your Breaking Bad shaped hole in your heart for 100 minutes.
I caught this movie on a cold and misty evening at the Phoenix Leicester which set the tone completely for a tense and moody drama.
The Breaking Bad passion in me (my favourite TV series) was working overtime here as Walter White starred in a film very similar to that narrative…
Set in 1986, The Infiltrator is based on a famous drug sting operation which was headed up by U.S. Customs official Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston). He decides to switch things up order to get to Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar by chasing the money rather than the drugs. This means going undercover as businessman Bob Musella with a false wife Kathy (Diane Kruger) to get closer to the criminals like Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt). Help is provided by his politically-incorrect colleague Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo).
We begin by meeting Cranston’s Mazur in a pivotal way. We see him as a high-end drug baron flirting with women and doing deals. This convinces us that he is the criminal. In reality he is undercover; therefore cons the audience the same way he goes onto to deceit the cartel. We now feel that tiny bit more invested, but also not trusting anything we are about to see over the next two hours.
As the story moves on, we see Cranston’s complex role develop. His Mazur begins to regress as a person and family man and he becomes more entwined in his Musella lifestyle. It’s such a difficult feat for Cranston to pull off but he ends up turning in one of his career-best performances. He’s charismatic and intelligent but also the only person we can trust. Director Brad Furman (Runner Runner) does this on purpose to de-stabilise the viewer so we constantly look over our shoulders.
This technique used by Furman is powerful. It makes the audience nervous and inquisitive at the same time. Furman does lose his way at times with clumsy camera angles and seriously long tracking shots with thematic mood-music playing overtop. It’s very reminiscent of a tribute to Scorsese or Winding Refn but not quite hitting their talent. I may seem I am harshly criticising Furman but at times it grates on you. Those flaws aside, he does hold the film well. Brad is helped out by a very interesting narrative and his cast nailing their roles.
Cranston we have touched on, but he really is the glue. His scene with his ‘real’ wife in the car back to their house after she had witness him playing his undercover role for the first time is mesmerising. The whole theatre was in quiet mode and just glaring at his impeccable acting. The supporting cast aren’t just passing by either; they have important screen time too that allows their performances to flourish. Diane Kruger and Benjamin Bratt are two in particular who serve the movie well.
The pacing of the story is everything with a film like The Infiltrator and I think that is Furman’s biggest strength here. He moves from one sequence to the next in an unrelenting style, not allowing the audience to linger. This also builds up the tension and nervous atmosphere giving the viewer an immersive experience. In the end, we are left fully entertained and gripped until the credits roll. We back Mazur all the way and the climax sews the film up nicely. With just a little bit more finessing and some cutting here and there, we’d have an entrant for ‘thriller of the year’.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
The Infiltrator is currently showing at the Phoenix cinema in Leicester until Thursday 29th September – certificate 15
From Adam Ray Palmer, the Editor-in-Chief.
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