By Bill Hughes (Baltimore, Maryland)
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The Infiltrator is a Riveting, Tension-Filled Movie

Actor Bryan Cranston is on a roll. He gained wide national fame for his terrific acting in the AMC crime drama series, Breaking Bad. He also received all kinds of well-deserved awards for it, too. Then, last year he was nominated for an Oscar for “best actor” for his featured role in the popular film, Trumbo. I thought he should have won. In any event, I just loved Cranston in that part, except I didn’t like his chain-smoking all those bloody cigarettes.

Enter the suspenseful film, The Infiltrator. Cranston is back in action, with his signature mustache, and once again carrying the lead. I saw this flick the other night at the Charles theatre in Baltimore. Trust me, I had a hard time staying still in my seat while watching it. It is loaded with scenes that are gripping with tension.

Cranston brilliantly portrays a U.S. Custom agent Robert Mazur. He goes deep cover in Tampa, Florida, in 1995, to bust a drug cartel. He uses the moniker “Bob Musella,” pretending to be a banker and investor. This incredible true story is based on his own book. Its title is: “The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel.”

To appreciate the high risks involved in this kind of daring undercover operation, keep in mind that the enemy was Pablo Escobar, the then-head of the notorious Medellin Cartel, based in Columbia, South America. How murderous was he and his cartel? In just two years, 1991 and 1992 alone, over 50,000 people were killed by them. This included judges, state officials, rival drug mobsters and politicians, innocent civilians; along with the bombings of airlines and government buildings.

The battle that pits the U.S. Government against the Drug Cartels is a no-holds barred War. Evil doesn’t even begin to describe Escobar’s gang. Its cocaine operation was international in scope, bringing in a staggering $70 million a day in revenue. Its alliance with corrupt bankers, like the BCCI, (Bank of Credit and Commerce, International), made it even more deadly. There is simply no comparison between the Mafia in America and the scale of operation of these ruthless killers in the Cartel. All of this sets the stage for the heroic infiltrator, Musella, to do his thing.

Musella’s side-kick/partner Emir Abreau is played by John Leguizamao. One word for his performance – brilliant. Diane Kruger is perfect as another agent, who is supposedly Musella’s fiancé. One of my old faves, Olympia Dukakis, has a supporting role in the movie as Musella’s aunt. She’s just right in the part. It’s a solid cast, with the talented Amy Ryan, as Musella’s in-your-face boss. Ben Bratt ably portrays Roberto Acaino, one of the Cartel’s front men.

“The Infiltrator” is a crime drama, not a shoot ’em up with lots of blood and gore. It focuses on Musella and his daring plan “to chase the money,” in order to get to the bad guys. Using an airline company as a front, he poses as a business man who can help the Cartel launder its massive amounts of drug money. Musella then brings the corrupt bankers from the BCCI outfit into the scheme. Meanwhile, his cleverly hidden tape recorder is getting all the conversations down, hopefully, to use in a criminal court case.

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Musella’s constant worry is whether someone on his team will make a fatal mistake. If that happens he would be tortured first and then killed. There’s one tense scene in a restaurant where he is out to dinner, in the Tampa area, with his “real” wife. One of the mobsters just happens to show up. Musella is forced to act like a mad dog gangster. Needless to say, it freaks his wife out.

The directing by Brad Furman is flawless and the screenwriter Ellen Sue Brown gets kudos. The movie is engaging every step of the way. I’m giving The Infiltrator four out of five stars.

Rating: 4/5

 

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