Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House movie review - Good intentions, terrible direction
Few things are more disappointing than a film that had the potential to be something special but ended up being a damp squib. The unfortunately named Marl Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House starring Liam Neeson is an exercise in good intentions and timely commentary, let down by a terrible script and equally inept direction.
The story of Deep Throat is one of the all time great moments in world history. For those not aware, Deep Throat (whose real name was revealed years later to be Mark Felt) was the name of the anonymous FBI operative who collaborated with Washington Post reporters for a long and dangerous period of time to reveal the infamous Watergate Scandal to the public, an act which ultimately brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. As you can guess, this is vast amount of material, and it probably needed a miniseries to tell the complete story in a coherent way. So this film, which plays out like a drama thriller was bound to fail.
Neeson plays Felt with as much magnetism as Neeson can muster – but it’s not enough. The story attempts to chronicle the events that led to Nixon downfall through Felt’s point of view. Shortly after Hoover’s death Felt orders the destruction of some sensitive files and gears up to lead the intelligence agency. Nixon, however puts L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) in charge of the CIA because of Gray’s loyalty, which work as a spark for Felt – who then proceeds to leak information to the Washington Post reporters about Watergate.
The timing of the film could not be better – considering how history is repeating itself right now in Trump’s America, with the intelligence agencies locked in a battle with the orange wannabe dictator who colluded with a mafia like foreign power for his personal gain; Nixon’s Watergate scandal being a parable for Trump’s Mayflower Hotel scandal.
But in mirroring the present it feels like the filmmakers rushed through with the film to get it out in time. This resulted in clumsy dialogue like in the Taken movies and awkward history channel like execution. It’s neither popcorn entertainment nor worthwhile serious drama, but mostly an often unintentionally funny bore.
The casting of Neeson as Felt is kind of problematic, because it’s hard to ignore a personality like Neeson’s – he’s just too towering and recognizable – he’s a proper movie star. Deep Throat was famously a plain character that slipped under the shadows and no one remembered, which is how he was successful in keeping his identity a secret for decades.
Hal Halbrook did this so well in All the President’s Men because his personality matched the real life Felt – and it worked even more so because Felt’s identity wasn’t known when that film came out. This film could probably have used a lesser known star to make it more convincing, but then again one movie was never going to be enough for a story this deep. Perhaps one day we will have a Netflix show that does justice to the material.