The biggest factor that drew me to this film was Cranston. His versatility as an actor has always fascinated me. From the goofy dad in Malcolm in the Middle, to a drug lord suffering from cancer in Breaking Bad, and now to a Fed going after a drug lord even more sinister than the one he played on television just a few years ago. I was interested to see how Cranston would pull off this total 180, especially since he has become so synonymous with Walter White, his Breaking Bad character. His performance was great, as usual. But what surprised me was that the two roles were much less different than I assumed. Both Bob and Walter start off as family men, doing everything they can to support their families. As time goes on, however, they both get too invested in the job and, as a result, alienate and endanger their wives and children. They continue to do it because they like it and are good at it, not necessarily for the good of their respective families. Obviously the line between good and bad is a lot more clear cut in Breaking Bad, but I was glad to see that The Infiltrator explored the gray area between right and wrong. Although the two characters are in essence very similar, Cranston’s two nuanced performances come across as entirely separate entities.
I was underwhelmed by the atmosphere of the film, with its only true setting-defining characteristic being the true story it was based on. The sets, costumes, and hair and makeup were incredibly understated, to the point that it seemed as if this film could’ve taken place in any decade (were it not for the Escobar plotline). Though its storyline sets the film in a definite time and place, that should not take any pressure away from the other factors that can contribute to its atmosphere. In fact, its clearly defined setting should have given the crew loads of inspiration for ways to fully immerse the audience in 1986 Florida. Atmosphere is something that Narcos does well, so the production team on The Infiltrator would have been wise to take cues from the Netflix series.
Though its atmosphere fell flat, the film’s casting really stood out to me. Diane Kruger is the ideal leading lady, holding her own as an independent female character who is good at her job. She’s a great addition to any cast, and I hope to see her in more roles soon. As beautiful as she is, thankfully there was no sexualized relationship at the core of the story, which was refreshing. Though that trope was avoided, another was thoroughly utilized. John Leguizamo is a walking, talking trope in this film, but he does it well. His character Emir is the main source of the film’s comic relief, as the rough-around-the-edges sidekick who has indispensable skills. He is perhaps the most likeable character in the film, strictly abiding by the trope’s guidelines. Also, I love Bryan Cranston and everything he does, so casting him is always a great choice in my opinion.
Coming in at just over two hours, The Infiltrator is a relatively long film, but remained engaging and by no means boring. Every moment was necessary and well utilized, which is something that I haven’t found in many films lately. If you like Bryan Cranston at all, it’s pretty likely that you’ll enjoy this film, as he gives a performance of his usual caliber. Full of action, drama, and comedic moments, The Infiltrator will appeal to viewers of all sorts (especially Narcos fans, obviously).