Shining another seedy torchlight into the American war on drugs, The Infiltrator gleefully bounds over every cocaine speckled cliché in this well-worn sub-genre. Set amongst the 80s backdrop of Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign, which discouraged children from engaging in illegal recreational drug use, the US government executed a brazenly covert operation in attempt to stop the industrial amounts of Columbian cocaine being illicitly trafficked through southern Florida. Real life US Customs operative Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur (Bryan Cranston) is the key kingpin in a tightrope takedown that spans various continents and countries.
In between a smorgasbord of debauched 80s opulence we witness a man pushed to unnerving psychological limits, thanks to Cranston’s trademark craggy performance. Indefinitely spiralling downwards, he submerges into his undercover role as the slick, high-rolling, money-laundering businessman Bob Musella, in the mother of all CIA stings. Embarking upon Operation C-Chase, Mazur teams up with fresh faced agent Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and streetwise subordinate Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) who together circumnavigate drug lord Pablo Escobar’s seemingly impenetrable criminal hierarchy.
Director Brad Furman (of Lincoln Lawyer fame) appears wholly indifferent throughout the increasingly tense proceedings lending a frustrating apolitical viewpoint, leaving the largely unappreciated and underutilised cast a superfluous workload. Fleeting appearances from the great (hello to) Jason Isaacs and Olympia Dukakis (literally blink and you’ll miss them) adds a much desired outsiders stance which alongside Juliet Aubrey’s progressively angst ridden turn as Mazur’s doting spouse anchors The Infiltrator into a semi relatable crux.
Behind the overflowing suitcases of cash and bellowing cigar smoke there is a search for humanity in a landscape of drugs. Cranston’s moral dalliance between reserved family man and flamboyantly corrupt entrepreneur is undoubtedly his finest big screen performance to date. This results in Mazur’s emotional darkness subsequently trickling into his domestic middle class life, making the quest for spiritual cleansing even harder.
Furman pays indirect homage to Michael Mann throughout the palm sweat inducing feature, exploiting brutal intensity against the nocturnal skyline of Miami. While there may be bullet raining sequences coupled with several hold your breath moments, The Infiltrator is ultimately a character study that blends officials and criminals into a lethal haze of smoke and mirrors. It is an altogether more enticing version of what 2015’s Black Mass wanted to be.
Although there is nothing ground breaking about The Infiltrator, Cranston et al’s multifaceted portrayal of the morality spectrum is certainly worth seeking out. A tale of no slip up entrapment that is highlighted and ultimately saved by star power.
The Infiltrator is in UK cinemas from 16th September.
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