Admittedly, I’m a sucker for dramatizations of real life events rooted in the world of politics. Excellent examples of this would be JFK and Nixon, to cite only two films that spring readily to mind. What those films have in common is that they were masterfully directed by Oliver Stone, a filmmaker who proved himself quite adept at that sort of thing some two decades ago.
Watching the umpteenth dramatic rehash of events during the Watergate era, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, the question as to why Stone wasn’t offered this film kept rolling around in my mind. Perhaps Stone was offered the project and declined, feeling he’d said all he wanted to say about the subject and if that’s the case, who could blame him?
Unfortunately, in place of Stone the project has been assigned to writer/director Peter Landesman, a filmmaker who just isn’t up to the task when one considers the monumental subject being tackled.
Mark Felt, for those not in the know, is the FBI agent who secretly fed top secret information to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the aftermath of the Watergate break in that occurred in June of 1972. All of this, of course, culminated in President Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974.
At the time Felt was only referred to as Deep Throat so that he could remain in anonymity. In 2005 and nearing the end of his life, Felt finally confessed that he was indeed the mysterious Deep Throat that Woodward/Bernstein so frequently referred to when asked about their sources.
Felt’s story is, on the surface, an interesting one but sadly Landesman doesn’t seem to have a grasp on how to create dramatic situations in a cinematic way. As a result, the film is one of those endeavors requiring a great amount of effort on the part of the viewer in order to remain engaged since dramatic conflict is in short supply.
Liam Neeson is excellently cast as Felt and he embodies the role quite well. The story basically follows Felt in the days immediately following the death of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. Felt and his unhappy wife (Diane Lane) are sure that the job is in the bag for Felt. Due to departmental drama, Felt is passed over for the top position. The film posits that this is the reason he opted to dole out information to Woodward/Bernstein, which paints him more as a man hell bent on resolving personal vendettas than actually trying to do the right thing.
The film’s cast is outstanding and includes Bruce Greenwood, Tony Goldwyn, Tom Sizemore—to name a few—in supporting roles. Unfortunately all of them are woefully underutilized. Technically, details are generally good but it’s a shame that such a compelling story turned out to be such a bore.
Mark Felt opens this Friday in Charlotte and all around the area.
Bruce Greenwood, Liam Neeson & Diane Lane in Mark Felt
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.