I expected The Infiltrator to have more tension, violence, and fear than it actually did. At the heart of the movie is (the real-life story of) a friendship betrayed; the core of this movie is not danger, or even justice or remorse, but sadness. I wasn’t expecting that.
They picked the perfect actor for the role; here you have Bryan Cranston again transforming (albeit temporarily) from a mild-mannered husband to an absolutely driven liar, imposter, and corrupt kind of dude (you know, like he did in Breaking Bad).
The deadly game that the character Robert Mazur plays is reminiscent of the antics seen in Catch Me If You Can (2002), only the consequences of exposure aren’t jail, they’re much, much worse. Bob is in the car when a contact he was meeting with is shot dead and the car flips over. So it’s not as if there’s no fear, no tension, and no violence at all.
Keep reading for a detailed plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
My Beat Sheet for The Infiltrator (2016)
Bob gets injured in the process of setting up a criminal for arrest.
The drug scene in Tampa is bad.
I’m just doing my job.
Bob could retire… or, he could act on a tip from an informant who shows up uninvited in his backyard.
Debate / Break into Two
Bob realizes the way to catch the drug bosses is not to chase the drugs, but to chase the cash. Bob’s bosses launch “Operation C Chase” and Bob gets a new identity so he can become The Infiltrator.
B Story / Promise of the Premise
Bob almost gets caught making a recording of a drug-related meeting. Bob goes out drinking with his new criminal contacts and invents a fictitious fiancee to avoid sex with a stripper; his informant tells him he has to do a better job blending in with criminals. Bob’s informant sees a friend killed in front of him for no reason, but Bob survives a potentially lethal voodoo initiation test. Bob meets more criminals and starts laundering money. Bob gets a real fake fiancee.
Bob and the fake fiancee gain the trust of a wealthy, important drug guy and his wife. Bob starts laundering even more money with the knowledge of BCCI, a corrupt bank.
Bad Guys Close In
One of Bob’s criminal associates sees his secret recording equipment. Bob thinks he’s going to be killed in the most painful way possible, and his family, too. But then, the guy who saw the recorder is suddenly killed because he offended another drug dude. Apparently, life is cheap. And very uncertain.
All is Lost / Dark Night of the Soul
After some key accounts get frozen by the US government, Bob gets a bloody coffin in the mail to tell him that he had better get the money, one way or another. Bob’s employers offer to pull him off the case.
Break into Three
Bob refuses to quit because he thinks he can take down one of the big bosses. Fake fiancee says a date for the wedding has been chosen, and everyone’s invited.
Bob and his fake fiancee welcome all the drug people to their wedding, including the family that they’ve grown close to. After the ceremony has begun, the cops show up and all the guests are arrested. The betrayal is complete. Yay?
Everybody on Team Infiltrate hugs each other with relief.