In the midst of the Cambridge Analytica story that is dominating the front pages – leaked to the press thanks to the bravery of whistleblower Christopher Wylie, it seems the perfect timing to explore the tale of Mark Felt, who helped journalists uncover the Watergate scandal in 1972 – a set of events that followed those of which were depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated The Post. Pertinent it may be, but the film is lacking somewhat in dramatic tension.
Felt, portrayed here by Liam Neeson, held the second highest-ranking post at the FBI, all the while acting as the anonymous informant ‘Deep Throat’, leaking shocking, imperative content to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that would eventually uncover the Watergate scandal. Felt had anticipated taking over the reigns following the death of J. Edgar Hoover, but President Nixon appointed L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) instead. Felt was sick of the government’s interference into the work the FBI were doing, and so he blew his whistle – and it shook America to its core.
Though telling a compelling story, with so many layers and dramatic promise, Peter Landesman’s movie is lacking an Aaron Sorkin-like screenplay, not quite sharp enough to maintain the viewer’s investment throughout. But the sheer pertinency of the narrative ensures it remains a worthwhile watch, as uncovering corruption in American politics is somewhat familiar at this precise moment in time.
Neeson does a fine job in the eponymous lead role, though is lacking an element of subtlety to his performance. Perhaps he’s spent so much time making action thrillers, when tasked with a more character-driven, nuanced piece of cinema, he’s forgotten how to be understated. Diane Lane, who plays Felt’s wife Audrey, impresses too, though regrettably she simply isn’t used enough, lacking somewhat in screen-time, when her own respective arc is one we wish to be explored further – adding a sense of humanity to a film that is so steeped in groundbreaking politics, we forget about those caught up in the whole ordeal.
Perhaps it may have been beneficial to approach this material from a different perspective after all, though in Landesman’s defence there are so many different components that make up this remarkable set of events, finding that focus isn’t exactly straight-forward. He’s done a commendable job all the same, though sadly the film’s long-winded title is emblematic of a rather convoluted endeavour, albeit entertaining.
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is released on March 23rd.