Monday 18 June 2018

Movie Review: The Infiltrator (2016)

A thoughtful biographical crime drama, The Infiltrator delves into the murky world of undercover enforcement work targeting ruthless drug cartels.

It's the mid-1908s, and Colombian drugs are flooding into the United States. Veteran Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) goes undercover as Bob Musella, pretending to be a well-connected businessman capable of laundering illicit money in large quantities. With the help of fellow-agent Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur starts with one informant and works his way up to meeting leading cartel member Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) and his glamorous wife Gloria (Elena Anaya).

Mazur is married to the long-suffering Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), but as part of his cover has to pretend  he has a fiancĂ©e. His boss Bonni Tischler (Amy Ryan) arranges for rookie agent Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) to play the role of bride-to-be, causing more tension with Evelyn. Mazur even recruits his elegant Aunt Vicky (Olympia Dukakis) to help in the charade. Mazur and Ertz earn the trust of Alcaino and Gloria, leading to difficult decisions as the customs trap prepares to snap shut on the cartel members and their corrupt international financiers.

Directed by Brad Furman and written by Ellen Brown Furman based on Mazur's book of the same name, The Infiltrator is a slick character-based dive into the real world of crime investigations. This is an exposé of honour among barbarous criminals in expensive suits operating from boardrooms, bank headquarters and multi-million dollar apartments, where one word can be the difference between absolute trust and a bullet in the back of the head.

The film does suffer from a slow and marginally disorienting start, with too many characters and incidents introduced too quickly. Once the story settles down, the latches click and the tension ramps up into a gripping thriller shaped around people dedicated to their work on both sides of the law.

Almost by definition Mazur has to distance himself from his real identity to sell his cover. Maintaining trust with Evelyn is essential to his well-being, and yet Mazur has to develop a convincingly affectionate relationship with Ertz, and together they need to appear genuinely close to the Alcainos. The Infiltrator thrives in the milieu of emotional complexity necessary to pull off a dangerous deception.

The Infiltrator does take a few quick detours to short and sharp scenes of violence that serve as reminders of the brutality lurking behind the surface. And there is no shortage of colourful personalities populating the world of large-scale drug smuggling, with the slimy Javier Ospina (Yul Vazquez) in his all-white suits particularly troubling.

At the middle of it all Cranston is excellent as the crusty Mazur, who could retire at any time but insists on finagling his way into the lion's den, his craggy face equally effective reflecting a life invested in enforcement or selling the fake story of money laundering on a grand scale.

The powerful forces of organized and well-resourced crime require a special brand of enforcement, and The Infiltrator deploys courageous chicanery to serve the cause.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

1 comment:

  1. Hello!
    Being someone who watches movies all the time, I am glad I came across this blog! Thank you for these reviews. I will make sure to take them into account before viewing a film 


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