Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (PG-13)

Drama 143 min. October 13, 2017
By Alan Scherstuhl
Curiously drab and airless, tinted to a distracting blueish miasma that suggests an advertisement for antidepressants, Peter Landesman's Mark Felt is the wrong movie at the right time. Here's the story of Deep Throat himself, the career FBI man who, disgusted at a corrupt and obstructionist White House, leaked the truth about Watergate to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Since the films share a couple of key scenes in a parking garage, Mark Felt must suffer the fate of being forever compared to All the President's Men. That shoe-leather classic tracked its reporters as they uncovered the truths that brought down Richard Nixon -- there's drama in discovery. Mark Felt (Liam Neeson), by contrast, has Tricky Dick's number some 20 minutes in.

Once we see Felt, the Bureau's deputy detective, get a rundown on who the Watergate burglars were, all we have left to discover is just what pressure or slights will inspire Felt to leak. Neeson broods well, and is certainly commanding, but the character is a brick wall, a thing we watch get slowly weathered rather than, like, make an interesting decision. At his low point, the hero orders illegal break-ins of the homes of members of the Weather Underground, but his precise reasoning for this outrage languishes undramatized. Diane Lane, as Felt's wife, gets to give a not-bad speech and then just turns up on occasion to look exasperated or concerned. Intrigue among the agents and lackeys at the Bureau seems meant to simmer beneath it all, but it's all so lukewarm you might wonder if someone forgot even to turn the stove on. Nice D.C. establishing shots, though — but too many of them.
Peter Landesman Maika Monroe, Diane Lane, Liam Neeson, Marton Csokas, Michael C. Hall Peter Landesman Sony Pictures Classics

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