The consummate character actor, Bryan Cranston is so good that it’s a rare film he can‘t make at least watchable, if just for the few scenes he might appear in. Even in his smaller supporting roles, I can’t really think of another current actor so obviously sincere and dedicated.
He’s definitely the main reason The Infiltrator is worth watching. Cranston plays U.S. customs agent Robert Mazur, who plans to retire, but not before going undercover one more time to help bring down the world’s biggest drug cartel. Posing as Bob Musella, a hot-shot money launderer, he reluctantly teams with fellow agent Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and Bonni Tischler (Amy Ryan), who poses as his fiancée. He eventually earns the trust of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), one of Pablo Escobar’s most brutal head honchos.
The Infiltrator is efficiently made and well-paced, but nothing that truly sets it apart from similar thrillers, save for Cranston’s performance. Since it's based on true events and the outcome is fairly well known, he has to carry most of the film on his shoulders to keep things interesting, which he does magnificently. As Mazur/Musella, he manages to create two characters with distinct personalities, each with their own quirks and flaws. And fortunately, he’s in nearly every scene.
|"Peanut butter & jelly?"|
Cranston is surrounded by a good cast, though at this point, Leguizamo and Bratt are in danger of being typecast for the rest of their careers (both have played similar characters so many times before they could probably do it in their sleep). And despite the story’s forgone conclusion, there’s are fair amount of suspense at times, punctuated by some jarring violence.
Cranston’s eventually going to win an Oscar, and if he keeps turning in performances like this, it’ll probably be sooner than later. He’s almost the whole show here, lifting The Infiltrator from a standard thriller into something worth checking out more than once.
FEATURETTES: "The Three Bobs" (A focus on Cranston and his character); "How to Infiltrate" (3-part featurette, which includes Mazur himself)
Audio Commentary with Cranston and director Brad Furman
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS