The Infiltrator, directed by Brad Furman, is a film that takes a while to find its rhythm – not much interested me at first. But when it does find what its main thrust is, the film becomes one that adequately explores the harsh reality that its characters reside in. This certainly isn’t a perfect film but there are elements to it that make it an interesting watch. So let’s breakdown the many aspects to ‘The Infiltrator’ and see what’s what.
The plot follows Robert Mazur – played by Bryan Cranston – a U.S. Customs official that goes undercover to try to bring down one of the biggest drug cartels that currently operates, and at the top of this drug empire, Pablo Escobar. Based on a true story, the film explores not only the dangerous world of money laundering and drug trafficking, but also the effects that it has on the people (and their families) who are in deeper than is perhaps wanted.
Early on in my time watching ‘The Infiltrator’, I found myself unable to invest or have any real interest in what was taking place. I had seen stories like this before, hell, I had seen many films like this before. I was readying to settle into a film that I would passively take part in. But then there was a turning point, something happened where the characters who I’d previously struggled to care about, became real people to me; they became someone who I all of a sudden cared about and was interested in seeing where things might lead for them. What was the reason for this shift? The film started to reveal the effect that was happening to its main cast of characters. They went from characters who I felt I had seen many times before; to people who actually began to show the effects of being in the world that they so confidently pretended to run. It was this that brought me in and had me invested.
This is of course helped by some good performances – primarily Bryan Cranston. But there was a particular scene in the film that stood out to me, and it was one with John Leguizamo – who played Emir Abreu in the film. In the scene it seemed as if his cover was about to be blown; blown by someone he trusted. Things end up working out in his favour and the film progresses on, but something that stood out to me in that scene; it wasn’t the tension, it wasn’t the inevitable violence, and it wasn’t even the initial outcome of the altercation. It was a tiny moment where the camera settled on the face of Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) just after the craziness had all taken place and things were returning to normal; in that tiniest of moments we get a glimpse of someone who was genuinely scared and genuinely effected by seeing someone he trusted get blown away. Though the moment was short (and for some insignificant) it showed me something: there were real people wrapped up in this crazy mess. Now this wasn’t the only time the film did this, but for me, that was when I truly started to focus on the people who were at the centre of the film.
What also caught my attention and made for scenes that I wasn’t expecting was seeing the friendships that would form between characters that were on opposite sides of the law – though only one of them was aware of that fact. But what grew from this, that was even more interesting was that inevitable moment where the rug would be pulledout from under the characters feet and they would realise they had been betrayed. Not only were those scenes emotionally charged, but to see a hint of sadness or regret in the faces of the undercover agents who had befriended them – that was something that elicited some really interesting reactions; not only from the characters but also me.
But not everything in ‘The Infiltrator’ grabbed my interest. The overall plot in the film is nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s your pretty standard plotline when the bringing down of a drug cartel is concerned (which is a weird sentence to write) and there are never really any twists or revelations that you don’t see coming. I knew who would fall, I knew who would get-away (but only just) and I knew who would make it out alive. Nothing ever came along that shocked me or made me sit-up in my chair and think, “Okay… well now we have a truly compelling story on our hands”. Everything is pretty by the books. Thankfully though, the simple-ness of the plot doesn’t harm the overall engagement with the film. This is one that is more about the characters and the lives that are wrapped up in it all – the story just helps to bring you more from them.
The last thing I have to touch upon is an aspect to the film that never faltered; the look and style of it all. The outfits, the cars, the locations, the hair (Oh the hair) and even down to the style in which everything is shot – ‘The Infiltrator’ just screams 80’s, and it’s a joy to look at. The set-designers, the costume designers etc. all of them did a brilliant job of getting the details right, which in turn made the film always look the part.
I went into this film not really knowing what to expect, it wasn’t even a film that I was that driven to see. But after my time with it, and also my time writing about it, I have come to appreciate it more. As a surprise to me, this film was actually a really entertaining watch.
So I will be recommending ‘The Infiltrator’. This isn’t a film that necessarily blows your socks off, but it is one that pulls you in with its characters, and leaves you with a satisfying conclusion. If you find the time, I think this is certainly worth a watch.
Did you enjoy ‘The Infiltrator’ or are you now interested to give it a watch? Leave any comments or opinions you might have down below. Either following my blog directly or following me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle is the best way to be kept up-yo-date on my other work (of you’re interested that is). Thank you for taking the time to read this, or any other of writing; it means so much, genuinely!