Since captivating crowds on television with his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston has been taking on a mix of roles, though there seems to be an emerging common thread in that he slightly leans towards taking on biographical roles. First with Dalton Trumbo, then with Lyndon Johnson, and now with the story of Customs Agent Bob Mazur in The Infiltrator.
Based on Mazur's book of the same name, Ellen Brown adapted it into a screenplay and Brown's husband Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) directed. Mazur went undercover as a businessman who could facilitate the sanitization of money from drug kingpins. Using various meetings and networks, Mazur (known as Bob Musella to his criminal friends) manages to befriend and earn the trust of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt, Traffic), a top lieutenant to notorious Colombian boss Pablo Escobar. The work Mazur and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds), playing his fiancée, did undercover led to the indictments of almost 100 drug lords and led to the eventual closure of the BCCI bank in London, which actively solicited funds from criminals for the promise that their money would be laundered. Mazur's work on the investigation still has him living with a hidden identity in order to protect his life.
Before getting into the nitty gritty of The Infiltrator, a word on the introduction of Mazur to the film. Bob Mazur strutting into a bowling alley while "Tom Sawyer" from Rush is pumping through the speakers may very well be on the Top 10 of introductions of movie characters. If someone wants to pay me so that I may research and generate such a list, you are welcome to, but know that Rahad Jackson and Floyd Gondolli are also probably going to be on that list somewhere too.
That tangent out of the way, watching Mazur's ride into this world that he's not completely accustomed to, not seeing his wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey, The Constant Gardener) and children for long stretches of time, Cranston conveys this longing well when given the chance to do so. In fact, The Infiltrator does a fine job of getting the viewer involved in Mazur's work and those he works with, including his partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo, American Ultra) and their boss Bonni Tischler (Amy Ryan, Central Intelligence). Heck, Bratt is a charismatic guy, a family man with a wife and daughter, and Mazur feels a certain allure to that lifestyle.
If there is a flaw within The Infiltrator, it's that the film tends to focus too much on a variety of characters without sticking to, say, Alcaino. In getting into those weeds, it misses telling a compelling story they have on hand. There are moments where you get requisite scrambling by Mazur, one in particular when he is out on his wife's anniversary with her, when a ‘friend' from work shows up. We also see Mazur's surreal journey to get to meet Alcaino in the first place, and Cranston gives us all the anxiety and tension one could muster. But the movie never seems comfortable in focusing on one thing; if it's the procedural part of the investigation, or putting all the pieces together on the game board, it is half-hearted. If it's supposed to be something where Mazur tries to maintain sanity with his family, those moments are fleeting and incomplete; if anything, a late second act scene between Evelyn and Kathy does more to explain Bob's feelings for Evelyn more than anything in the movie does. The Infiltrator doesn't really build to a convincing crescendo, just to a mandatory one, which is doesn't do smartly.
Along with the high level thoughts on Cranston's post-TV career, something else that was a little pervasive during the theatrical run of The Infiltrator was that people were impressed by the real-life story, and less so with the retelling of it. After spending two hours with Bob Mazur, his family, co-workers and friends (both good and bad), it's not that I felt bad for leaving the film, but there wasn't all that much that was worth bringing and keeping me in to begin with.The Blu-ray Disc:
Broadgreen presents The Infiltrator with an AVC encode on Blu-ray for its 2.40:1 production. The production used the RED high definition cameras but you'd be convinced otherwise, with lots of vibrant lighting choices to illustrate Tampa or Colombia, when most of the film was actually shot in London. The colors look good, though some of the lighting shows off some image noise that's a little hard on the eyes. But image detail is pretty good as are flesh tones and black levels and, having never seen a Broadgreen disc before, did not have any larger complaints.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround rules the day and it's without complaint. The film's music, which is slightly old for the time (if we're going to split hairs), sounds clear and powerful, just as things like car engine acceleration does. A scene where Mazur is in the car with Barry Seal gives us clean gunfire and a flipped car that goes from channel to channel, sounding immersive throughout. Dialogue is well-balanced in softer moments to boot and it turns out to be a good soundtrack.Extras:
Furman and Cranston team up for a commentary that's jovial throughout. I've enjoyed Cranston's commentary contributions in the past, but like the movie, things seem sort of average on this one. They include the obligatory raves on the case and get into scene breakdown and location choices, and there is a decent amount of production recall. There are also points where the real life figures are identified from the cinematic interpretation ones, but there wasn't anything in this commentary that mandated you listen to it. Five deleted scenes (8:52) are nondescript, and "The 3 Bobs" (3:18) gets into the motivations of Mazur by Cranston. "How to Infiltrate" looks at getting in and staying in an undercover position, and interviews the real-life agents involved in this operator. Strangely this piece, while being a multi-part examination, is brief in time (5:51), but I would have liked to see more of it.Final Thoughts:
At the end of The Infiltrator, I found myself wanting to like the film and its protagonist more, but the film bounced around in a lot of different areas and consequently made it hard to care. Technically the film looks and sounds good, though it most certainly could have benefitted from longer featurettes to get a deeper appreciation for what Mazur did. As it stands, it's a solid ‘good' film, but certainly not a ‘great' one.