The Watergate scandal that ultimately brought down the Richard Nixon administration is one of the key moments in 20th century American politics and it’s been covered in cinema before, most notably in Alan J. Pakula’s outstanding ‘All the President’s Men’. That film briefly featured the man known as ‘Deep Throat’ AKA the senior FBI official who provided ‘The Washington Post’ with much of their insider knowledge, and it was 30 years later before that man was revealed to be Mark Felt, the subject of this film. The Watergate scandal is a fascinating piece of history but unfortunately as we discover over the course of this film, Mark Felt isn’t particularly interesting and seeing things from his point of view doesn’t really tell us more about the situation beyond illuminating the office politics at the FBI in the aftermath of Hoover’s death.
Mark Felt is played by Liam Neeson with his most gravelly voice, and we do get a sense for the kind of person he is and why he was driven to go the press after 30 years of loyal service as the fiercely independent FBI starts to become compromised. Neeson is fine, but he’s not helped by a script that struggles to successfully tie together his working life with his private life, where Diane Lane is particularly short changed as his wife. The film is shot mainly in offices and dark corridors, presumably to emphasise the shady situation the characters are dealing with, and that can be an effective tool but the workmanlike direction and tedious, repetitive conversations dull any impact it may have had. From a commercial perspective, I can’t imagine the film was helped by the mouthful of a title, which feels like a placeholder that was left when the producers couldn’t think of anything better.
‘Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House’ is a movie that attempts to get under the skin of the man responsible for helping to uncover the Watergate saga, but it feels sadly inessential and doesn’t add much more to the story for anyone other than the keenest of political aficionados.
Directed By: Peter Landesman
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Tony Goldwyn, Maika Monroe, Kate Walsh, Josh Lucas, Michael C. Hall, Marton Csokas, Tom Sizemore, Julian Morris, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Bruce Greenwood, Ike Barinholtz, Brian d’Arcy James, Eddie Marsan and Noah Wyle