THE STORY – Lifelong G-Man Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat,” leaks information to the press that helps to uncover the Watergate scandal of 1974.
THE CAST – Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Marton Csokas, Ike Barinholtz, Tony Goldwyn, Bruce Greenwood, Michael C. Hall, Brian d’Arcy James, Josh Lucas, Eddie Marsan, Wendi McLendon-Covey & Maika Monroe
THE TEAM – Peter Landesman (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
By Matt N.
“Mark Felt: The Who Brought Down The White House” (This is a mouthful, so from now I’m simply going to refer to it as “Mark Felt”) had all of the makings of a great film. A star-studded cast lead by Liam Neeson and the right subject matter to match our politically charged times. So why does Peter Landesman’s political drama not hold up? Well, the answer lies with Peter Landesman. As a director with only two other feature films under his belt (“Parkland” and “Concussion”), Landesman still proves that he has much to learn in translating what he writes on the page, to the screen.
It’s 1974 in Washington D.C. and Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) has worked for the FBI for 30 years as the number two man to J. Edgar Hoover. After Hoover’s death, Felt is passed over as the new director of the FBI and the job is instead given to Assistant Attorney General, L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas). Upset and seeing the corruption within the FBI starting to reach a boiling point where the crimes for Watergate will go unanswered, Felt becomes an anonymous informant (Working under the secret codename Deep Throat) for journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, which would help them pinpoint the Watergate scandal on the Nixon administration, including the President himself. Under heavy pressure from Gray, who is unaware that Felt is a mole, Mark must lead suspicion elsewhere if he is to remain a loyal patriot in the eyes of his colleagues.
Landesman’s work as a journalist shows in his screenplay, which includes intimidation, political intrigue, personal drama and all based on true events. The glue that should hold all of this together is non-existent as Landesman is unable to create compelling drama out of his scenes, their transitions and the overall feeling they are meant to give us. On paper, the story should work and its parallels to today’s political administration are enough to give people reason to want to check the film out. However, it is un-compelling and a tedious slog to sit through. I’m sure Watergate is interesting as “All The President’s Men” showed us, but the story that is being told in “Mark Felt” is hollow by comparison. When Bob Woodward, shows up in the parking garage to talk to the man known as “Deep Throat” it not only draws those comparisons but it makes us wish we were watching something better.
God bless Liam Neeson though for he really does give it his all. The character of Mark Felt is an interesting one and Liam is completely dedicated to making sure that we know all of the qualities which made him a true patriot and all of his flaws as well. Neeson is tough, weathered and has conviction. It helps that he is in nearly every scene because he is the best aspect of the film and makes it barely watchable. The supporting characters are not given a strong enough focus by Landesman to truly matter. The whole cast includes Josh Lucas, Diane Lane, Tony Goldwyn, Michael C. Hall, Tom Sizemore, Martin Csokas and a few other recognizable names who show up for what amounts to cameos. None of them ever pop off the screen with their performances. You can once again see the machinations in place which would allow for them to be able to do so but Landesman’s lack of skill as a director does not push the actors or the scene far enough to get us there.
Other than an intriguing score by Daniel Pemberton (“Steve Jobs” & “King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword”), “Mark Felt” might as well be called “Mark Flat.” With a washed out color palette, uninspiring performances (Outside of Neeson) and a lack of general excitement, “Mark Felt” is a chore to sit through. It feels even more criminal than the criminal acts committed in Washington that this film should be this boring, considering the impact it could have had on today’s moviegoing audience. Perhaps there are some audience members who will be able to overcome the film’s flaws and see the story’s importance. I certainly hope so, because of its comment on the political landscape of the past and how it parallels ours today, it is more important now more than ever. Better go pop in “All The President’s Men” instead.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Liam Neeson’s commanding performance.
THE BAD – Landesman’s uninspired direction makes this potentially compelling political drama a total bore.