Based on true events in 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) must go undercover to infiltrate a money-laundering scheme led by infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Posing as a wealthy businessman, Mazur must navigate a vicious criminal underworld where one false move could cost him and his fellow agents their lives.

As with the usual influx of biopics in the run up to Oscar season, The Infiltrator presents a true(ish) story based on the book, The Infiltrator: Undercover in the World of Drug Barons and Dirty Banks, by real-life undercover agent, Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur. Set in the late 1980s, Bryan Cranston plays Bob – a US Customs official who has risen through the ranks to help infiltrate some of America’s most notorious drug cartels. Having turned down his early retirement for one last bust, Bob soon realises that this mission may cost him more than he originally bargained for. With a faint reminder of the Reagan administration in the background, the narrative walks us through the biggest money-laundering bust in US history.

Director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer, 2011) is actually quite good at building up a suspenseful narrative although it is somewhat of a slow burner. Without a doubt, our lead protagonist (and co-producer), Cranston, is really what carries the film. Once again showing his versatility as an actor, Cranston is able to successfully switch between an honest, hard-working family man to a greasy, slicked-back business tycoon with total ease. Furthermore, his ability to do so is utterly believable thus adding to a more shocking side to Bob’s character. The drastic change in his character is an excellent portrayal of the depths Bob is willing to go to in order to secure the success of the mission. Alongside his fellow agents, Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) – Bob’s glamorous fake fiancée, Cranston is given a steady platform on which to shine.

What lets The Infiltrator down, however, is the crime/gangster genre clichés which seem to be consistently evident throughout. With regular reminders of Bob’s soon retirement, a neglected family and resentful wife back home and his boss busting his balls , there are times when we can’t help but feel that we’ve seen this narrative all too many times before. Similarly, with so many characters and operations going on at once it can be difficult to identify character names, let alone some of their roles within the money laundering scheme. This is mostly redeemed, however, by a few genuinely intense and suspenseful moments. This credit is arguably due to the success of the film’s screenplay, adapted from the book by Furman’s own mother Ellen Brown Furman.

Ultimately, The Infiltrator can be described as nothing more than just OK. Whilst there are some truly great examples of excellent cinematography and Cranston offers up another splendid performance, we can’t help but feel as though both his and Ellen Brown’s talents have gone a little to waste. Let down by some basic genre cliches, there are just too many times when the narrative appears to be rather shapeless as it slowing builds towards a well-executed finale. If you’re looking for an easy-view and some Cranston action however, this may just be the one to watch.

Movie Review: The Infiltrator
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Sophie is a film blogger from South London with a degree in Film Theory and Major Production. Sophie currently works in digital marketing but in her spare time you'll find her writing reviews or at the cinema. Sophie loves all things Star Wars and Hollywood but having specialized in the Horror genre, monsters are her first love. She'll watch absolutely anything given the chance - you can find her also on her blog, Twitter: