A terrific performance from Bryan Cranston lifts this otherwise run-of-the-mill real-life story of an undercover US Customs official on the trail of a Colombian drug lord
The Infiltrator is yet another film based on a true (ish) story about yet another lawman who went undercover and got too close to the criminals he was surveilling. Set in the 1980s, and adapted from the memoir of Robert 'Bob' Mazur – a US Customs official who, outfitted with 007 gizmos like a briefcase recorder, apparently wormed his way into the most notorious drug cartels – it talks us through the Reagan administration's mission to take down Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar via the international bankers happily laundering his cocaine dusted millions.
What have become the clichés of the Donnie Brasco and co. mini-genre make one sigh wearily at times. Pity, for example, Juliet Aubrey playing the resentful wife and having to deliver the usual set speeches about hubby neglecting his family and getting too chummy with his female partner and his criminal targets. Bob does indeed appear overly enamoured of both his undercover partner/fake 'fiancee' – who probably wasn't quite as beauteous or sophisticated as Diane Kruger is here – and the hospitable, high living scumbags with whom he shares champagne, lap dances and family dinners.
Similarly, sundry interchangeable, exaggeratedly Latino villains, whose names and places in the cartel hierarchy you never quite comprende, impulsively blow people's brains out.
Two things not only save The Infiltrator, but make it more than just OK. Bryan Cranston, playing Bob, carries the movie, at home in guises from bowling alley sleazebag to slick mafioso accountant, and sympathetic throughout.
And director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) is quite good at lulling us with a character study then delivering a sharp jab, a violent twist or shock you really didn't see coming in a generally unremarkable screenplay credited, in what may be a first, to Furman's mum, Ellen.
General release from Fri 15 Sept.