Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Ten Best Films of 2016: #7

Brad Furman's "The Infiltrator" has it all: a smorgasbord of suspense, action, riveting drama and laugh-out-loud comedy. Bryan Cranston cements his status as one of our more important working actors as Customs agent Bob Mazur, who's offered retirement but instead volunteers to go undercover as money launderer Bob Musella in an attempt to get close to Pablo Escobar. John Leguizamo plays Emir Ebreu, Mazur's rookie partner, who likes to fly by the seat of his pants. Their relationship echoes that of John Ashton and Judge Reinhold in the "Beverly Hills Cop" franchise: high praise indeed. After Mazur sends home a prostitute purchased for him by one of Escobar's men, citing a purported fiancée (he's long married, his wife Evelyn played by Juliet Aubrey), no-nonsense boss Bonni Tischler (Amy Ryan) assigns him one: equally green agent Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger).

Together, they set out to and do become friends with Escobar's top lieutenant, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), and his wife Gloria (Elena Anaya). One false move at any time could spell a slow and painful death, a reality that heightens the tension to an exquisite peak. Meanwhile, Bob's aunt Vicky (Olympia Dukakis) wants to tag along with them and pose as a moneyed Miami matron for a lark. The supporting cast is uniformly first-rate - Kruger in particular is one to watch - but the movie belongs to Cranston, who has us on his side from the jump with an alive performance that brings out the wry comedy in the well-paced script penned (I was enchanted to learn) by the director's mother, Ellen Brown Furman. After Kruger plays a daring and unplanned gambit during a dinner with the Alcainos, Roberto compliments Bob on his bride-to-be. Cranston's subsequent line reading - he takes a moment to process what's just happened, then replies, "She's remarkable" - alone is worth the price of admission. Add to his work the atmospheric cinematography by Joshua Reis and original music by Chris Hajian and you have a movie that delights the eyes and ears and stirs the heart and mind.

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