The Infiltrator (2016) – Film Review



If there’s one thing I love to see in historically-grounded movies, it’s the use of the real-life inspiration in its presentation. From James Cameron’s use of actual footage in Titanic, to Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain showcasing the for-real mugshots in the end credits, it’s just that extra mile that “based on a true story” films don’t have to go, but for which I’m so happy when they do. The Infiltrator did that—to ground the audience in the world of the drug-crazed ‘80s, as much of Operation: C-Chase is roped into the narrative as possible. To add to that, the soundtrack is truly “dope”, offering up an iconic Rush song in the opening scene, to Curtis Mayfield’s oh-so-fitting “Pusherman”.

There were a lot of those edge-of-your-seat moments in this picture; not having even been born yet, I had no idea how this all would turn out. I did no research, and I’m glad I didn’t; I liked the intense action of the close-call scenes, while also appreciating the soothing moments in the humorous and slower ones. The end came sweetly…but not without some pause from this reviewer.

Over the course of the narrative, co-protags Bob Mazur (expertly-portrayed by Bryan Cranston) and Diane Kruger’s Kathy Ertz grow severely—almost fatally—attached to those they seek to take down, and that’s the kicker: this film isn’t about the plot, but about the people. It’s about the burden that these agents, these “infiltrators”, must carry over and over again as they tear down life after life for the good of everyone at home. We get an intimate, nigh-unnerving look at the personal lives of these kingpins, and the repercussions of their actions being pushed into the light of justice. I felt…sorry for them, from the upper-echelon Roberto Alcaino to the low-ranking sleaze that got his head blown off about mid-way through the feature. These special agents, indeed, are the real heroes in these operations—those who fight the unseen wars that happen right on our doorstep and never get recognized for their noble, selfless acts and sacrifices.

Performances in this one were spot-on. Bryan Cranston’s been a long-time favorite of mine—good to see his character not get killed off before his time (*cough* …Godzilla… *cough*). Diane Kruger’s prowess as a Hollywood veteran has never been in question; she offered up an interesting dichotomy to Mazur’s stone-faceness. John Leguizamo’s portrayal of Mazur’s partner and underworld liaison, Emir Abreu, grounded the movie in that low, skeezy atmosphere where my gut resided throughout this thrill-ride. It was an up-and-down ride right to the end, but the pay-off is totally worth it (for those of you, like me, that were all-together unaware of the events prior to viewing). It’s definitely not an overly-triumphant ending, but I walked away with a grin on my face, knowing that, yes, the bad guys were got and everyone else went home in one piece, thanks to the mid-credits text and photos—again, from the original case files.

Brad Furman’s The Infiltrator gets a very strong ‘Risk Assessment from me: *****/—five out of five.

I think I’ll have to change up my “Fav Movie” badge at work…


Written by Evan Kern

Just a twenty-something filmie trudging through adulthood. Taking it day by day, movie by movie. Words are life...

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