Watching The Infiltrator (2016) gave me a case of false deja vu: I know I had never seen it, but I felt like I had. It’s thoroughly professional, even mildly interesting, but it didn’t really do anything new or surprising.
Based on actual events, The Infiltrator dramatizes a U.S. Customs operation to take on the drug cartel of Pablo Escobar in the 1980s. Spearheading this operation is Bob Mazer (Bryan Cranston), along with his loose-cannon partner Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo). Their plan is to tap into the cartel’s money-laundering operation to track the players, round them up, and shut them down. To that end, Mazer goes undercover as “Robert Musella,” who at great risk to his life and his family infiltrates the criminal operation — and unexpectedly befriends the very criminals he’s planning to put away.
There’s nothing wrong with The Infiltrator, and there’s plenty to like about it. Cranston and Leguizamo are in fine form, and they’re surrounded by a great cast; Diane Kruger stands out as Mazer’s fictional undercover fiance, while Elena Anaya, Benjamin Bratt, Olympia Dukakis, Jason Isaacs, and Amy Ryan are all really solid. The plot is well clocked, the shots are well framed, the story is well told. Despite all this, there’s something expected about it all; it feels watered down, Martin Scorcese Lite. It nearly provides a little something extra near the end, when it’s neat climax provides an unexpected emotional punch. But overall I doubt this one will make a lasting impression.