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Reviews for July 13th, 2016

Documentary Round-Up

      Don't Blink: Robert Frank explores the life and work of American photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank. The doc's title refers to an statement that Frank himself made about his work, but it might as well also pertain to this film itself because the editing is fast-paced with so many quick cuts that you'd be better off not blinking or else you'll miss something essential onscreen. Through archival and contemporary interview footage, director Laura Israel allows for you to grasp how stubborn, blunt, wise, eccentric and charismatic Robert Frank is as a human being. His wife, June Leaf, has a very different personality than he does, but they compliment each other quite well as a couple. You'll learn how Frank began his career as a photographer with the encouragement of his father at a young age, and how he played such a significan, iconic role in the world of photography. If only the film's pacing were to slow down a bit, you would be able to have more time to more time to observe the brilliance of Rober Frank's photographs and, most importantly, to fully absorb them. It's hard to accomplish that when you're bombarded with image after image, so that's rather frustrating especially for those who are discovering Robert Frank's work for the first time. Nonetheless, the wealth of footage and insight that Don't Blink as well as a candid glimpse behind-the-curtain to show you what Robert Frank is like as a human being is enough to recommend the film, but do be warned about its dizzying fast-paced editing. It opens at Film Forum via Grasshopper Film.

The Infiltrator

Directed by Brad Furman

      Federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) goes undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar's drug trafficking ring. He assumes a new name, Bob Musella, and pretends to be a money launderer with the help of his colleague, Emir Ebreu (John Leguizamo), and Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) who pretends to be his fiancÚ. Little does Robert's wife, Evelyn (Juliet Aubrey), know about his secret mission, so she naturally suspects that he's having an affair with another woman. He bravely risks his life to try to reach Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), a key player in the drug trafficking ring who's Escobar's chief lieutenant.

      Not since Traffic, Blow and Scarface has a crime thriller been so thoroughly gripping, captivating and electrifying. Based on the book by Robert Mazur, the screenplay by Ellen Brown Furman is equally strong when it comes to plot and character development. From the get-go, you care about Robert Mazur because you get to observe his family life which helps you become emotionally invested in him as a human being. Bryan Cranston knocks it out of the ballpark with one of the best performances of his career. He's the perfect actor for such a role that radiates both strength, charisma and humanism. You'll be on his side every step of the way throughout the plot's twists and turns. Yes, the plot itself is complex, but that doesn't mean that it's complicated or dry like Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. The dialogue feels organic and has just the right amount of levity. Moreover, while the film does have its fair share of action and violence, it's not over-the-top or exhausting. In other words, this film has just the right balance of drama, action, intrigue and comic relief.

      Just like with Brad Furman's underrated classic The Lincoln Lawyer, The Infiltrator hits all the rights notes and has stylish editing that pops without going overboard on style or moving too quickly when it comes to its pace. There's not a single dull moment to be found from start to finish. A true test of how truly captivating it is as a thriller is the fact that its running time feels more like 90 minutes rather than 127 minutes. It's a truly satisfying crime thriller, and not only the best film of the summer, but also one of the best films of the year thus far.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Broad Green Pictures.
Opens nationwide.