Review: Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
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JoBlo.com reviewed MARK FELT as part of our TIFF 2017 coverage.

PLOT: The true story of Mark Felt (Liam Neeson), the FBI’s Associate Director, who, during the Watergate Scandal, fed Bob Woodward information under the handle “Deep Throat.”

REVIEW: Deep Throat is the most famous anonymous source ever. For years, people were obsessed with his identity. Everyone knew that, to have access to the info which arguably brought down Richard Nixon’s White House, he had to be right up there. A few years before his death at the ripe old age of ninety five, Felt admitted that he was the one who gave Woodward the information, something he would have been punished mightily for had his identity ever leaked.

MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE delivers exactly what the name suggests – a blow by blow account of Felt’s Watergate dealings, and why he decided to give Woodward the info. While a more graceful title could have been given to the film, it’s another in director Peter Landesman’s fine series of big-screen docu-dramas. His first film, PARKLAND, memorably chronicled the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination, while the more ambitious CONCUSSION took a broad look at the NFL’s efforts to suppress research on the brain degeneration suffered by its players.

MARK FELT is more along the lines of PARKLAND, in that it’s a modest fact-based pic that could just as easily have been made for HBO. This isn’t a dig, it’s just rare we get such a “just the facts ma’am” style biopic in theaters, especially featuring a star as big as Neeson. While this won’t be his Oscar movie, it’s a solid drama that would make an interesting third part of a loose trilogy consisting of Oliver Stone’s NIXON and Alan J. Pakula’s ALL THE PRESIDENTS’ MEN.

Neeson plays Felt as an upstanding man of principle, a status no doubt helped by the fact that he wasn’t J. Edgar Hoover’s assistant during what the movie calls “the bad old days”, when they harassed Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Still, Felt is no saint, with him knowingly violating the rights of those loosely affiliated with “The Weather Underground”, a motivation the film chalks up to his worry about his wayward daughter (Maika Monroe) who’s run away from home to become a radical.

The home aspect of Felt’s life isn’t gone into all that much. We get a sense that something’s not quite right with his wife (Diane Lane), although a revelation that plays out during the epilogue comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem in character to who Lane is playing. No matter, it’s the intrigue that will draw people in, with Felt navigating a Viper’s nest, both at the White House (represented mostly by Michael C. Hall’s John Dean), and in the FBI, with Marton Szokas as Pat Gray, the newly installed interim head of the bureau, and a solid Tom Sizemore as former bagman Bill Sullivan. His allies include Josh Lucas’s Charlie Bates, and Tony Goldwyn’s Ed Miller, even though his off-the-record chats with the press endanger their livelihoods.

One thing the movie doesn’t compellingly convey is why a company man like Felt would talk to the press. While it was most certainly the right thing to do, he’s shown as so dedicated to the bureau, we don’t quite understand how he would jeopardize his position in it. More could have been done to show his disenchantment, as well as his less upstanding side, shown through his Weather Underground activities.

Even if it’s not perfect, MARK FELT, at just over 100 minutes, zips along pretty well, and stands as an accurate look into a dark time in U.S history. Ultimately, it’s uplifting that a guy no one would have ever imagined to be disloyal could uphold his principles for the greater good – even at great personal cost. Every generation needs a whistleblower, and Deep Throat was arguably the most famous of them all.

Source: JoBlo.com



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