The Infiltrator

 

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A talented cast can't prevent a real-life tale from seeming fictional.

 
Infiltrator, The

Diane Kruger and Bryan Cranston 

 

Bryan Cranston was already in his fifties when his appearances on TV in Breaking Bad raised his status. In seeking to build on that it seems entirely sensible that he should seek out movies like Trumbo and now The Infiltrator which, more mainstream than independent in tone, nevertheless enable him as a middle-aged man to play the lead role in stories which, taken from real life, offer something a little more substantial than most Hollywood entertainments provide. The credit here for Cranston as an executive producer adds to the sense of him latching on to this piece as potentially very suitable for him - and so it would be if only the screenplay were not so inept.

 

Cranston plays Robert Mazur who has himself written about his experiences in the 1980s when, as a federal agent for U.S. Customs, he went undercover to do something about the drugs arriving in America in huge quantities due to the cartel run by the Colombian Pablo Escobar. By pretending to be a dealer offering his services, Mazur under a new name set out to meet those working for Escobar and to be taken up the chain of command. Films concerned with infiltration into criminal groups by undercover agents are practically a sub-genre in themselves and often work well. Indeed, initially The Infiltrator looks promising, even if it does include some phoney sounding speechifying (at least that element seems to be recognised since the flowery language is greeted by the riposte: "Is that Shakespeare?").

 

But, although the main characters here are all based on real individuals, the storytelling defeats the able cast which also includes John Leguizamo as Mazur's partner, Benjamin Batt as a leading figure in Escobar's organisation and Diane Kruger as another agent who is required to protect Mazur by pretending to be his fiancée. Sadly, much that may have been real seems unreal when seen here, especially after an invented scene finds Mazur openly dining out with his wife on their wedding anniversary only to be spotted by one of the criminals who knows him in his undercover persona as an as yet unmarried man. Even Mazur's aunt (Olympia Dukakis) is allowed in on the act when he gets close to his quarry. The film badly needed to be more persuasive, but, even if it had been, it would still have seemed absurd for the film to suggest - as it eventually does - that Cranston's Mazur would feel sympathy for Batt's major criminal. Occasionally the narrative becomes a mite confusing to follow, but far more serious is the fact that the longer this two hour plus film goes on the less you believe in it regardless of its factual basis.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo, Amy Ryan, Said Taghmaoui, Olympia Dukakis, Yul Vázquez, Juliet Aubrey, Joseph Gilgun, Jason Isaacs, Michael Paré, Elena Anaya.

 

Dir Brad Furman, Pro Miriam Segal, Brad Furman, Don Sikorski and Paul Brennan, Screenplay Ellen Brown Furman based on the book by Robert Mazur, Ph Joshua Reis, Pro Des Crispian Sallis, Ed David Rosenbloom, Luis Carballar   and Jeff McEvoy, Music Chris Hajian, Costumes Dinah Collin.

 

Good Films-Warner Brothers.
127 mins. USA/UK. 2016. Rel: 16 September 2016. Cert. 15.