Susan Granger’s review of “Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (Sony Pictures Classics
The takeaway thought from this less-than-memorable biopic is that one highly-principled person can make a big difference…and many Americans are hoping that another steps forth soon.
The whistleblower is Mark Felt (Liam Neeson), who for many years was a trusted confidante and second-in-line to the F.B.I.’s Director J. Edgar Hoover.
As it begins, Felt is summoned by Richard Nixon’s aides and asked how the President can fire Hoover. Tersely wording his reply, Felt tells them that every tidbit of gossip and information that comes to the Bureau – like who’s seen with a woman who is not his wife or another man – is duly recorded and kept in Hoover’s personal files, concluding: “All your secrets are safe with us.”
Oozing with righteous indignation, Felt claims the F.B.I. is “the most respected institution in the world,” operating independently without any interference from anyone, including the White House and Department of Justice.
When Hoover suddenly dies, instead of promoting Felt, Nixon appoints an outsider with no law-enforcement experience, his crony L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas), much to the dismay of Felt and his frustrated wife, Audrey (Diane Lane).
When the 1972 Watergate burglary of the Democratic National Committee occurs, Gray minimizes its importance, giving Felt and his team only 48 hours before closing the case. Thankfully, Felt continues to investigate, communicating his suspicions to Time magazine’s Sandy Smith (Bruce Greenwood) and The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (Julian Morris), becoming the elusive tipster known as Deep Throat.
Based on books by Felt and John D. O’Connor, it’s superficially scripted by writer/director Peter Landesman (“Concussion”), who completely fails to capture the compelling drama of “All the President’s Men” (1977). And the counterculture Weather Underground subplot, involving Felt’s daughter goes nowhere.
Liam Neeson’s stoic performance is staunchly supported by John Lucas, Michael C. Hall, Tony Goldwyn, Brian d’Arcy James, Eddie Marsan, Tom Sizemore, Ike Barinholtz and Kate Walsh.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House” is a fizzled 5, political deception resigned to failure.