BY ROGER THOMAS
I have been admiring the work of Bryan Cranston since he played the weak and chaotic father of the family at the center of “Malcolm in the Middle.”
The fact that only one season of that brilliant series is available on DVD is a tragedy. “Malcolm” gave television many laughs over six years. From 2008 to 2013, Cranston followed the success of “Malcolm” with the highly-praised series “Breaking Bad.” He also had a supporting role in the Best Picture of 2012: “Argo.” Then last year, Cranston received his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. His role was depicting the real life blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo in the film “Trumbo.”
“The Infiltrator” is Cranston’s latest brilliant work. I am not sure that I would have seen this film if another actor was in the lead. I could tell from the trailer it was yet one more film about high stakes drug dealers and the people who try to stop them. I was confidant the film would be violent, gritty and in many ways depressing.
But Cranston is in it. Plus there is the bonus that this is a film that tells a true story. I am sure some of the scenes are embellished, but still it tells the story of some very heroic people doing a very difficult things. Those two elements, Cranston and a story based on real events, were enough to draw me in, and I am glad they did.
If you do not like violent films and films about how successful some people become through immoral enterprises, this is not a film for you. If you feel safer not knowing all the evil that is happening daily in our world, then this is not the film for you. Like many other films about drug-dealers, there are a great many characters in this film who succeed in the most corrupt ways possible.
Cranston’s character, Robert Mazur, is a hero. He is a real person who spent his career making a difference, bringing down some horrible people. This film tells the story of one of Mazur’s greatest achievements and all the individuals who helped him pull off a great con against the various people who were preying on others.
This is a complex film set in 1986. Sometimes I was not sure what was going on. I am pretty naive about a great many things and often I was not sure who was who and what was what. However, as things played out, the film pulled me in deeper and deeper. And when the final credits rolled, very creative credits by the way, I was satisfied with what I knew. I am not sure I was clear on everything, but I did not need to be. I understand enough, and the film left me not discouraged but invigorated, as all good films do.
It also left me with a sense of gratitude. There are some extremely bad people depicted in this film. That is troubling. But it is also encouraging to know there are people like Bob Mazur and all his support staff who were and perhaps are still striving to keep all of us safe. Great sacrifices are made by agents and their families. The film does not shy away from that, and I am glad it does not. For all those whose stories were told on screen, and the many others who were not depicted, hopefully they will be well-supported and blessed for all they do.
Cranston is great in the film as I knew he would be, but the film itself surprised me. I liked it more than I expected. God bless all those who take challenges like the ones in “The Infiltrator.”
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.