By: Jessica Goddard
Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House will work for those already familiar with the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, but Peter Landesman’s film will be less interesting to audiences not well-versed in political history. The screenplay doesn’t offer much exposition and relies on the smarts of its audience to keep up and understand.
Liam Neeson stars as Mark Felt, who history will later reveal to be “Deep Throat”, the FBI agent secretly leaking information to the press regarding the Nixon administration’s Watergate cover-up. The movie works out to being mostly about the high stakes office politics within the FBI, which is not uninteresting, but this is not a political thriller – it’s a lot of Washington men in suits talking about other men who also wear suits in Washington.
The film is shot in a moodily muted way, though often with an engrossing sense of urgency. Smartly, it’s less of a factual play-by-play of a historical timeline, and more of a dramatic biopic with the softening inclusion of Felt’s tense relationship with his wife (Diane Lane) and his search for their estranged runaway daughter.
For some reason, we don’t see a lot of Woodward and Bernstein in Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House – at least, not in any great detail. Yes, we get a few scenes in an underground parking garage, but the focus of the film is Mark Felt, not “Deep Throat”. In a lot of ways, this movie is sort of a prequel to all the drama of the Nixon White House takedown and fallout.
Liam Neeson fits really well into this role. He’s stoic, sturdy, and respectably intimidating. One of the interesting elements here is that we never know whether Felt is motivated by revenge after being passed over for promotion within the FBI, or whether his whistleblowing is motivated by a greater sense of integrity and disdain for the corruption he’s witnessing.
Whether the timing is coincidental or not, this narrative is a needed reminder to the public of a time when scandal was actually scandalous and our leaders were held in high regard.
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Jessica Goddard: @TheJGod