The Infiltrator (2016)

The Infiltrator first published by RealCrime Magazine

The Infiltrator, directed by Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer, Runner Runner), dovetails into that peculiar borderland where crime’s realities and cinema’s clichés overlap. 

When US Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur was working as an advisor on Miami Vice (2006), he suggested to director Michael Mann that his own story would make a great movie. Eventually, in 2009, Mazur published his memoirs, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside The Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. 

Now this book had been adapted (by Ellen Brown Furman) into The Infiltrator – and the results are, well, pretty much the same as Deep Cover (1992), Donnie Brasco (1997), Infernal Affairs (2002), The Departed (2006), or any number of other films in which undercover agents find their home life threatened and their allegiances conflicted.

The film’s trump card is the casting of Bryan Cranston as Mazur. It’s a dynamic spin on his Walter White character from television – except that Mazur is ‘breaking bad’ purely in pretence, as part of a plan to insinuate himself into the Medellin cartel’s money laundering activities, and to get closer to Escobar’s lieutenant in America, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt). If anything, Mazur is too good – which is nice for him, if rather dull for the film.

The Infiltrator eventually structures itself around comparisons and contrasts between different families: Alcaino’s wife and daughter, the monstrous Medellin dynasty, Mazur’s real family and his fake one (with fellow agent Kathy Ertz, played by Diane Kruger). “Stay close to the truth, make it easier to lie,” Mazur tells Ertz, in what might as well be a manifesto for the way the film creates fiction out of the real Mazur’s true story. Still, The Infiltrator introduces a dizzying ensemble of characters into its overstretched duration to weave a tale we already know too well. 

© Anton Bitel