With movies like 'Ghostbusters' and 'The Secret Life of Pets,' you generally know what you’re getting, but there’s nothing like a good crime drama that’s based on a true story and features an award-winning actor as the main character. This week, that spy thriller is 'The Infiltrator,' directed by Brad Furman ('Lincoln Lawyer,' 'Runner Runner') and starring Bryan Cranston, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo and Amy Ryan.

'The Infiltrator' is based on the autobiography of Robert Mazur, a U. S. Customs special agent who infiltrated the drug lord Pablo Escobar’s organization in the 1980s. Posing under the alias Bob Musella, a smooth-talking, money-laundering businessman, Mazur works his way through Escobar’s network until he makes contact with one of his top lieutenants, who deals directly with the drug lord himself. Cranston plays Mazur and clearly raises the bar on an otherwise mediocre film.

The movie is extremely character-driven, which is really all you need to know if you’re familiar with Cranston’s work. It’s a sort of character examination that places Cranston’s Robert Mazur into a dangerous and tense situation (as Bob Musella) and gives viewers a peak into the crime-spy world. It’s very interesting to see how he reacts in certain situations, from doing things like you expect to completely surprising you with jaw dropping actions or statements.

Along with Cranston’s performance, the tension and danger built around his character’s current undercover operation is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat from time to time. At first he tries to convince his wife and likely himself that he isn’t in any danger, but as he gets deeper into Escobar’s organization, he begins to realize that his situation is life-threatening for himself as well as his family.

There are times when Mazur is reminded of the potential for danger or risk as it arrives in the form of a bloody package on his family’s doorstep or similar implied threat. As far as the tension, I found myself constantly wondering if and when his cover was going to be blown. It only adds to the fact that there are multiple scenes where someone finds out something they’re not suppose to regarding his cover, and without knowing the true story myself, I was always expecting something bad to happen.

Actress Diane Kruger plays rookie agent Kathy Ertz, Mazur’s cover fiancé, who handles herself very well. Benjamin Bratt plays Roberto Alcaino, one of Escobar’s lieutenants who Mazur befriends, and Amy Ryan plays Bonni Tischler, Mazur’s Customs boss or handler. Next to Cranston’s performance, Kruger and John Leguizamo take second place, the latter playing Mazur’s loose cannon of a partner, Emir Abreu. At the end of the film, it’s interesting to see the credits showing pictures of the real life people alongside the actors who portrayed them.

'The Infiltrator' has a few missteps or aspects that fall short, but overall it’s a solid and thrilling crime-spy drama, in large part due to it’s cast. While many films can appear to be realistic and even though a film such as this may be pretty by the numbers, there’s something special about knowing that it’s a fact-based story. It’s very compelling and intriguing to not only watch Cranston do his thing, but take the audience through the motions of going undercover in such a serious operation.

3 out of 5 stars.

'The Infiltrator' is rated R for strong violence, language throughout, some sexual content and drug material. Running time is 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance writer, photographer/videographer, and filmmaker in Dallas, TX. You can find more of his work on Selig Film News. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when he is not reviewing movies, Hayden works in film production. Don't like what he has to say? Let him know at hpittman87@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.Enjoy the movies!