It might have taken him until his autumn years, but Bryan Cranston is finally enjoying the recognition he deserves following his overdue breakthrough role as Walter White in the TV phenomenon Breaking Bad.
The actor, who received an Oscar nomination for his role in Trumbo earlier this year, is mesmerising to watch on screen, so eyes remain fully-focused on the action in The Infiltrator, directed by Brad Furman, as Cranston’s in almost in every scene.
In this Eighties-set drama, he plays Robert Mazur, a mild-mannered family man and federal agent who realises that, if they’re ever going to make a dent in the world of drug trafficking, they have to switch tack and go after the money, which could ultimately lead them to the head honchos, rather than concentrate on relatively small-time drug deals.
Based on Mazur’s memoirs, it details his transformation into ‘Bob Musella’, the larger-than-life businessman he creates in order to infiltrate the drugs world by offering to launder millions of pounds through legit investments.
Not only is he going after kingpin Pablo Escobar’s Colombian drug cartel, including his second-in-command Roberto Alcaino, played beautifully by Benjamin Bratt, and the seedy henchmen that populate the lower rungs of the ladder, but also the seemingly respectable bankers who are willing to turn a blind eye to the origins of the money if it means they get to enjoy a profitable slice of the pie.
In this world, one wrong word and it’s game over with a bullet in the back of the head or a knife in the stomach, even if it happens to be in the middle of a busy nightclub, so the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Not least when Mazur’s forced to pretend he has a fiancee after he turns a stripper down out of loyalty for his wife but doesn’t want to raise suspicion in front of his crooked new contacts.
Mazur’s colleague Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) is drafted in for the role.
It’s her debut undercover, and Mazur is dubious before realising they have the perfect opportunity to gather their new ‘friends’ under one roof for a glamorous wedding and potentially undertake one of the biggest stings in history.
Standout scenes include the moment Mazur’s recording equipment is momentarily revealed in his briefcase and it’s spotted by Escobar’s ‘money-man’ Ospina (Yul Vazquez).
If there was a quibble it would be with the final 15 minutes, which lack real drama and feel anti-climactic after the tension of previous scenes, but overall this is an intelligent, stylish movie.
There are strong performances from all, but Cranston steals the show, an Academy Award nominee playing a man worthy of walking away with a golden statuette himself.
If you were/are a fan of Breaking Bad, then you can expect more of the mesmerising performances which Cranston brought to that series. Contains some swearing.