The Infiltrator is based on the true story of Robert Mazur, a U.S. Customs Special Agent who managed to infiltrate the drug cartel of Pablo Escobar. We’re introduced to Mazur (Bryan Cranston) as he wraps up another successful undercover operation. Because of what the military would call a “non-combat” injury, he has the option to retire with full benefits. An option his wife Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey) wants him to grab onto. But he’s not quite ready to retire. And he has a brilliant idea. Rather than try to stem the flow of cocaine into the U.S., he suggests to his boss, Bonni Tischler (Amy Ryan) that they follow the money. This leads to an operation where Mazur goes undercover as “Bob Musella.”
Mazur’s fellow Customs Service agent Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) has a connection with an informer who can introduce Musella to some people who are involved with the Escobar cartel’s money laundering operations. This leads to an introduction to Gonzalo Mora Jr. (Rubén Ochandiano) and Gonzalo Mora Sr. (Simón Andreu). To help protect his cover and his life, Mazur arranges for someone he put behind bars to be released to act as his driver/bodyguard during this operation. “Dominic” (Joseph Gilgun) is street-smart and constantly reminding Mazur of just how big a risk they are all taking.
The Moras want to reward Musella and arrange for a hooker to service him. He begs off, claiming he is engaged to the great love of his life and he won’t risk that relationship. That’s how another agent, Kathy Ertz, becomes part of the operation. She’s never been undercover before but she plays the part well. After some vetting, Bob is introduced to Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) a major player in the Escobar organization. This leads to larger and larger sums of money being laundered and that brings a large international bank into the mix. The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was at one point the 7th largest bank in the world, but was deeply involved in money-laundering.
There is a lot less action than one might expect in this type of film, but the action sequences that are present are done well from a technical basis. The best scenes in the film are later in the op when Mazur and Ertz are involved as friends to Alcaino and his wife.
While the film and its narrative are somewhat pedestrian, the actors rise above the material and deliver outstanding performances. John Leguizamo is simply spectacular as the wise-cracking, risk-taking Abreu. Benjamin Bratt nails the role of a high ranking cartel member who is an old-fashioned gentleman truly in love with his wife, with an utter ruthlessness lying just under this gentle facade. But this is Bryan Cranston’s movie. As he did in Trumbo he brings a real person to life before our eyes. He captures the highs and lows of being in a deep-cover assignment, especially in the all too few scenes he has with Juliet Aubrey who plays Mazur’s wife Evelyn.
SPOILER ALERT – The film takes some poetic license in telling Mazur’s story. To facilitate the creation of a film, the five years that Robert Mazur spent undercover as part of Operation C-Chase are compressed into a much shorter timeline. The drive-by shooting where Mazur was in a car with the man who was murdered did not happen. Nor did the voodoo ritual that adds some real color to the film. To properly illustrate the success of this Customs Service operation, they seized 3,200 pounds of cocaine, $100 million in cash and put BCCI completely out of business.