A U.S. Customs official uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
As often seems to happen with true-story based films, especially those involving drug trafficking, government involvement, and convoluted character relationships, I look back at The Infiltrator and am confused as to what actually took place. I got the big picture arc, with Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) infiltrating Pablo Escobar’s cartel as undercover agent Bob Musella. I get the basics of the steps he takes to lead to an eventual take-down of the key players involved (spoiler, but not really – it’d be more surprising if the film didn’t end with arrests). The fundamental pieces are all there and make sense, but the nuance and the detail are completely lost to me.
Many of the details, like the bizarre inclusion of a CIA agent who tracks Mazur and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) are completely baffling. The CIA agent shows up for like two or three scenes, and then disappears after Abreu beats the shit out of him. Why was this character included in the first place? Well the whole Iran-Contra scandal presumably, alluded to only in the closing credit title cards. Yeah, Iran-Contra, big scandal lots of people have heard about, but how is this throwaway character associated with that. As far as what I could gather, there’s nothing in this film that really explains that unless you already know what the connection is (which I don’t).
In terms of the relationships between all the characters I’m also left a bit puzzled. Especially considering that some seemingly big players (including Escobar himself) appear in the last thirty minutes of the film. You really get to know Mazur and Abreu’s characters, and even a handful of the drug traffickers, but a majority of the characters in The Infiltrator are superficial at best.
Still, despite a meandering plot The Infiltrator does deliver a minor adrenaline shot. Also, Cranston and Leguizamo deliver terrific performances. Leguizamo keeps appearing in many things I’ve been watching recently (including the roller coaster of an experience that is Bloodline) and he continues to amaze me. He seems very much like a character-actor, but he brings slight differences to each of his roles and I’m always curious to see what he will deliver. Cranston also gives an interesting performance, playing on the “good”-side of the law as opposed to the one who knocks.
Overall, The Infiltrator seems like a good film in the moment but one that will probably be mostly forgettable. It does however, bump up my interest in finally getting around to watching Narcos and learn more about the Pablo Escobar/Medellín Cartel story.
3 out of 5