This Wednesday, Broad Green Pictures is set to release The Infiltrator, directed by Brad Furman and starring Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt, and Diane Kruger. The film is scintillating, built on terrific duplicity, and intriguing from the first moment, when we see Cranston walk into a bowling alley. This movie also marks the first time that Cranston has played a role that taps into that duality he portrayed so well during Breaking Bad. Overall, it’s the best performance of Bryan Cranston’s film career.
The Infiltrator tells the story of U.S. Customs agent Robert Mazur. By day he’s undercover busting drug rings in the Tampa Bay Area, and by night he’s a family man with two kids. In the beginning, it seems as if Mazur has a grip on the dual life he leads and his work doesn’t get in the way of his family. However, when Mazur decides that instead of going after the drugs (like they have for all these years), that they should now start tracking the money, his job starts to morph into something he would never have anticipated.
Mazur is paired up with Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), and they immediately launch an operation to track down the cash streams that fund the cartels. Abreu and Mazur have sort of odd couple vibe about them, but they ultimately work well together as partners. Mazur puts the word out that Bob Musella (his alias) is open for business and can launder any amount of cash the cartels provide him and invest in legitimate businesses. To gain the trust of the cartels, Mazur is given a Rolls Royce, a mansion, and an infinite amount of cash to use at his discretion. He quickly makes his way up the cartel hierarchy and after gaining the trust of the unstable Javier Ospina (a friend of Escobar’s cartel), he gains the confidence of Escobar’s chief distributor Robert Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt).
The highlight of this film is Bryan Cranston performance, layered and nuanced as Mazur. When he was Mazur, the family man, he was reminiscent of the dad from Malcolm In The Middle. When Mazur was Bob Musella, he was a simmering cauldron of intensity that was reminiscent of his days on Breaking Bad. The sheer brilliance of the film is when Mazur gets deeper into his investigation; he starts to become more and more like Bob Musella and loses who he is. This was no more evident than in the anniversary scene when Mazur is taking his wife out to dinner. He starts off as affable as he’s ever been around his wife and as the dinner progresses he becomes more and more agitated (which is something unlike Robert Mazur but very much like Bob Musella). He becomes increasingly aggressive and reaches a boiling point when one of his new associates that work for Pablo Escobar shows up. Instead of trying to talk his way out trouble he decides to cause a distraction by smashing a cake violently in the waiter’s face.
The production design in The Infiltrator is stellar and thanks in part to Crispian Sallis, previously nominated for an Academy Award for production design on Gladiator. Just as he demonstrated in his previous work, Sallis finds a way to design sets or enhance a shot that raises tension and enhances the danger Mazur fell into time and time again.
Joshua Reis’s cinematography is impeccable. Reis, whose experience is primarily in horror films, puts his experience to good use as he brings out the best in a scene, whether it’s Mazur’s mansion or the fake wedding that takes place at Innsbrook, or any of the small moments in between. Probably his best work in the film is when Mazur is taken to what looks to be a Santeria ceremony to see if he if is, in fact, being truthful (with the penalty being that he would be shot in the head). Reis manages to quickly flip shots from right at Mazur’s eye level to a shot panning of what was transpiring around him.
Brad Furman makes sure the film is paced appropriately, and that prevents the film from lagging. Furman seems to have a love for the Tampa Bay Area and chooses some of the best locations to not only enhance his narrative but showcase the area.
It’s very wise of Broadgreen to release The Infiltrator on Wednesday because it could easily get lost in all the Ghostbuster and The Secret Life Of Pets hysteria during the weekend. The Infiltrator is one of the best films this summer. Hopefully, it will find an audience.