Bryan Cranston dons a moustache and gets back to what he’s good at; shouting at people over drug deals. But how’s the rest of the film? Lee finds out.
The Infiltrator, based on the true story of an FBI agent who goes undercover as a go-between guy for drug dealers in order to bring down those affiliated with Pablo Escobar in the 80s, is a film wholly without direction.
Over-the-top chroma keying with oranges for sleazy-rich, greens for scummy lows; simple, uninteresting camera set-ups that lack flavour or creativity, often falling back to the ol’ Dutch angle and reaction shot a few too many times; and a series of scenes one after the other in which two people sit down and discuss things as the camera reels from delivery to reaction to delivery to reaction, over and over with no real flair or distance to let the scene play itself; these are the calling cards of misguided directorial decisions.
The movie touts a single ace, a competent performance from Bryan Cranston, who is truly at his most competent as he tries to inject some much needed nuance and drama to this straight-forward ‘all lines are blurred’ story but simply lacks the material and the support to do so. Every single other performance and delivery the remaining cast offer are so derivative, so phoned-in or so lacking in restraint that the fault can only be levelled at the director for not really knowing what to do with them.
Not that either director or actors had much great material to work with; the screenplay is a boring stroll through much of cinema’s least interesting interpretations of ambiguous characterisation. We get the ‘what monsters we become’ angle as Cranston’s character slowly gets more invested in his role, though this never culminates in any sort of consequence other than he bothers his wife a little about it. We get the ‘hard choices the good guys make on the not so good guys’ take, as Cranston brings down a somewhat-affable family man of a boss, but the script never really lets us get to know any characters for more than a few short moments at a time, too busy bringing us from place to place as we follow the mission, wholly missing the real stories that could be told in the meantime.
The one-note wife who lets us know the husband has gone one step too far this time doing his job, the other guy on the job whose a little crazier to let us know our main character isn’t very crazy, miscellaneous side characters who try to make this mission seem bigger than it is; it all just feels like a really long, boring episode of some middling crime procedural, teasing plot threads and hitting expected notes for drama’s sake and little else. Did we really need a “don’t worry, you’re a lucky woman” hypothetical affair arc for this character? Aren’t the stakes in this job high enough? For what the film teases in interesting stories or angles, it utterly fails to take advantage of a single one in any interesting or informative way, and even if this were a cookie-cutter action film, the direction fails to make something more out of the nothing it’s being given.
Audiences might walk away surprisingly entertained by this movie for its sparse memorable moments; for two hours of your life, there are much, much better inside man stories you could be watching.