Bryan Cranston goes undercover in ‘The Infiltrator’

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Brian Cranston stars in The Infiltrator

Fabian Brims, Egalitarian Staff Writer

Pablo Escobar’s rise to power as one of the most notorious cocaine traffickers came back to people’s consciousness when Netflix published its show ‘Narcos’ last year. ‘The Infiltrator’, the new movie by Brad Furmann, plays in the same universe based on real events in the 1980’s. However, this time it’s not about the smugglers and drug lords; it’s about the money launderers.

Working for the U.S. Customs Service, special agent Robert Mazur (Brian Cranston) goes undercover as Bob Musella and offers money-laundering services to big cocaine players. He also works together with a large international bank to launder the unbelievably huge profits of the Colombian drug cartels. Together with his partners in this undercover operation (Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo) Mazur gets more and more deeply involved with the brutal drug traffickers until his wife (Juliet Aubrey) doesn’t recognize her own husband anymore. Being so involved with the cartel leads to problems once the five-year-long operation comes closer to the finishing line, and Mazur’s marriage is at risk as well.

There are many legendary movies about drug smugglers and cartels, like ‘Traffic’, ‘Scarface’, or ‘Blow’, and unfortunately ‘The Infiltrator’ is not on the same level, yet it is a legit true-crime-thriller that leaves the audience satisfied. The story is at times too conventional and doesn’t offer any new insights to the business of an undercover agent, but the authenticity of the 1980’s Miami and the good performances of the whole cast make up for that.

I liked especially John Leguizamo’s depiction of a street-smart customs agent. The rest of the cast also does a pretty good job, even though Cranston doesn’t reach ‘Heisenberg’-level with his performance. It is also notable that the casting agent chose an excellent supporting cast; all the actors are actual lookalikes of their real-life counterparts.

I also enjoyed that the writers neither glorify the smugglers nor the policemen. Without being too graphic, they show the incredible brutality that comes with this highly profitable, yet illegal business of drug trafficking. The real-life Robert Mazur, who wrote the book this movie is based on, also worked on it as a producer and made sure his story is told the right way.

Like ‘Donnie Brasco’ isn’t a movie primarily about the Mafia, ‘The Infiltrator’ is not only about the drug cartels around Pablo Escobar. It is a movie about undercover agents infiltrating these criminal organizations. These agents live over a long time under immense pressure and are always at risk of being exposed. They become friends with their targets, and when the operation continues, they have to make sure to stay on the right side of the law and don’t get mixed up with their criminal alter egos.

The writers also have to get credit for not painting a black-and-white picture of the war on drugs. Shortly after the U.S authorities brought down a whole network of drug traffickers and money launderers, they got mingled up in the Iran-Contra Affair when drug money was used by the C.I.A. to finance Nicaraguan contra rebels.

If you are interested in an exciting story about how an undercover cop infiltrates a drug cartel, this movie will definitely satisfy you, but keep in mind this movie puts a focus on the interpersonal relationships and less on the action. The writers don’t reinvent the genre, and at times it gets a little too conventional, but the acting and the atmosphere of the glory days (sic!) of the ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ in Miami make up for that. I’d rate it 7.5/10.

The Infiltrator (2016); directed by Brad Furman ; written by Ellen Brown Furman; with Brian Cranston, Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt; starting on 7/13/16

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