One of the nicest surprises among the loud and sometimes mind-numbing summer movie season is a new adult drama. The Infiltrator finds Bryan Cranston back in the world of drug trafficking, but this time the Breaking Bad Emmy winner is on the good side of the law in a pulse-pounding and first-rate true story based on former federal agent Robert Mazur’s memoir. In 1986, Mazur went deep undercover, ingeniously following the money trail all the way to the top of kingpin Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking empire. Targeting more than 100 drug lords as well as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the key money-laundering operation for these illegal deals, Mazur risked his life in a remarkable sting operation that could not be more intense and exciting.

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As I say in my video review (click the above link to watch), director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) serves up a nail-biting tale focusing on Mazur’s infiltration into the highest reaches of power in this most dangerous of worlds. Under orders from his boss Bonnie (Amy Ryan), Cranston’s Mazur invents an alter ego named Bob Musella, a money-laundering businessman who works his way into Escobar’s network by promising to keep its money safe from the feds. Joined by fellow agent Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), his tentative steps into this ring are fraught with peril at every turn. During one conversation, he accidentally says he has a fiancée, forcing his department to bring in agent Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), who poses as his bride-to-be and join him in the operation. Eventually Mazur/Musella makes his way up to Escobar’s No. 2, Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), ingratiating and convincing him that he has his best interests in mind.

What’s truly fascinating is that this basically is Mazur’s day job. At night he goes home to his wife (Juliet Aubrey) and family but soon finds that the mission might be costing him his personal life as he goes deeper and deeper into the heart of the Escobar world. One scene where Mazur takes his real wife out to an anniversary dinner nearly turns disastrous when he runs into one of Escobar’s men and quickly must revert to his alter ego — which horrifies his wife. This is the kind of thing Cranston just excels at. He has been on a real roll of late and never has been better than as Mazur, a juicy part enhanced by the fact he is playing a still-living man who pulled off one of the greatest drug ring busts ever.

Leguizamo also is very lively and fun to see as a key associate, and Kruger is simply excellent as the woman who has to join Mazur in pulling off a miracle of deception without missing a beat. Bratt is perfectly cast, a seemingly ordinary and successful businessman with a brutal personality simmering underneath. Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis is a hoot as Mazur’s Aunt Vicky, who at one point finds herself part of her nephew’s ruse. The adaptation of Mazur’s book is skillfully penned by Ellen Brown Furman, the director’s mother, who has done a fine job, never drifting into the cliches of this movie genre. Producers are Miriam Segal, Don Sikorski, Paul M. Brennan and Furman. Broad Green Pictures is releasing the film Wednesday in about 1,600 theaters, a perfect adult alternative for these hot summer months.

Do you plan to see The Infiltrator? Let us know what you think.