This ain’t no Disney story – The Infiltrator (Film Review)

The Infiltrator tells the fascinating yet gritty true story of US Customs Official Robert Muzar, who in 1986 went undercover to infiltrate the huge trafficking network of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. Bryan Cranston portrays, almost perfectly, the struggling agent who probably should have just accepted his early retirement offer, but instead finds himself out of his depth in a battle against the biggest drug cartel in history. He makes a convincing transition from the average family man to his slick alter ego Bob Musella, the smooth talking, money laundering businessman.

The fellow cast members equally do the film justice, in particular those who play drug traffickers and money launderers deeply involved in Escobar’s network. They keep the audience firmly on the edge of their seats with their intense performances, ever so convincing as characters that are probably some of the worst human beings on Earth. Highly unpredictable, the audience never really knows whether these men are with Robert Muzar as his best friend or if they are really there to kill him. Actor John Leguizamo plays Muzar’s street wise partner, the man who often puts his life on the line, darting from one side of the law to the other as part of the undercover operation. Leguizamo brilliantly portrays the character who flirts dangerously with death, a man who’s gift of the gab is what keeps him alive.

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Diane Kruger takes on the film’s supportive role, going undercover as Muzar’s fiancé. Kruger portrays very well the innocence of a woman who is totally inexperienced in undercover work and naïve to the criminal underworld. She isn’t the only strong female influence present in the film, Juliet Aubrey portrays Muzar’s wife and the private battle between herself and Muzar. Together Aubrey and Cranston portray the character’s conflict excellently as Muzar is drawn further from reality, well who wouldn’t find the 9-5 life hard to contend with endless amounts of money, alcohol and beautiful women?  

Brad Furman reveals his talent as a director, using a series of close ups in the incredibly intense scenes to fully immerse the audience in the dark world of drug trafficking that’s being created on screen. There’s no shortage of suspense, the tone of the film made very clear. And it’s not without those nail biting, palm sweating powerful scenes either. Whether it’s an accidental slip up or a bit of bad luck the whole operation is often at risk. Cranston is very believable as a man who can suddenly find his life, and those closest to him, all hanging in the balance.

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The film has been adapted from Robert Muzar’s autobiography so it brings the risk of the line blurring between fact and fiction. However, the script remains surprisingly true to the original story, the dialogue being a vital element to the film as it is ultimately portraying a violent world where one word can mean the difference between life and death. Of course, a few tweaks have been made here and there to make it a little more Hollywood, who would have thought?! Although the plot never strays too far from the truth.

It’s a narrative that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you’re squeamish. If you’re looking for an easy to watch, happy go lucky film then go elsewhere. This definitely isn’t Disney. However, The Infiltrator tells Robert Muzar’s true story grippingly well, it will undoubtedly get you hooked from the beginning and needing to know how it ends.

3.5/5

Dir: Brad Furman

Scr: Ellen Sue Brown

Cast: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Jason Isaacs

Prd: Paul M. Brennan, Brad Furman, Miriam Segal, Don Sikorski

DOP: Joshua Reis

Music: Chris Hajian

Country: UK

Year: 2016

Run time: 127 mins

The Infiltrator is in cinemas now.