Bryan Cranston is US Customs Official Bob Mazur, who specialises in going undercover to take down the bad guys. Following a successful sting where he gets injured, he’s told he’s eligible to retire. Instead he takes on a new job, going back undercover as shady business Robert Musella.
While his partner, Emir (John Leguizamo), infiltrates the lower ranks of the drug world, Bob works his way into the trust of those higher up the narcotics chain, posing as a man capable of laundering millions of dollars for Pablo Escobar’s Medellin drug cartel. The further into this world he goes the more dangerous it gets, necessitating the need for a fake fiancée (Diane Kruger), and having to pretend his wife is his secretary to help ensure his real family is kept safe, all while knowing that if he’s found out he’ll get a bullet in the brain.
Not many actors first become movie stars in their 50s, but that’s what happened with Bryan Cranston. A few years ago he was just the dad from Malcolm In the Middle, but thanks to Breaking Bad and then the likes of Argo, Drive, Trumbo, and Godzilla he’s become an Oscar-nominated film star in his own right. With The Infiltrator it’s easy to see why, as he’s great in the central role, selling Bob as an ordinary man with balls of steel and a knack for pretending to be someone else.
He’s just one part of an excellent cast, and it’s a good job they are excellent, as otherwise The Infiltrator wouldn’t be half the movie it is. The reason for that is that apart from the actors the rest of The Infiltrator feels a little uninspired, telling a story we’ve seen many times before in ways we’ve seen many times before.
It starts off well with an almost heist movie feel as Bob and the ‘good guys’ work out how to get in with the Medellin Cartel. However, once he’s inside the film becomes less interesting, largely because it seems determined to hit every cliché, and when it does it hits them with a thud. Whether it’s the fact this is supposed to be Bob’s final job, the moment his cover is almost blown by the wrong person seeing the wrong thing (which happens a couple of times) or when it tries to show what a dangerous world they’re involved in, the film takes it a little too far and ends up reminding you how few new ideas it has. It’s a particular problem with the sections highlighting the extreme danger of the Medellin world, as while they’re supposed to increase the tension, too often they feel forced (even if they are based on real life) and end up reminding that this is a film.
The result isn’t a bad movie, just one where most of the middle feels flabby and invokes too much of a sense of déjà vu, but the setup is good and it ends well. Cranston alone almost manages to raise the whole crime thriller above the average, but even he can’t quite overcome a movie so determined to once again show us things we’ve seen numerous times before, and in ways that largely feel uninspired. On the plus side though, the acting is good, and it does have a great sense of period style, but it’s not quite enough.
Overall Verdict: An interesting story and a great cast can’t quite hide the fact that this is a movie where it’s difficult not to feel like we’ve seen this before and done better.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac