Scandal, corruption, and Liam Neeson…. need we say more? Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is writer/director Peter Landesman’s portrayal of the mysterious man known as “Deep Throat”  — the Watergate whistleblower that led Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to expose one of the greatest political scandals in American history. While it’s an important story to be told, the film falls a little flat, especially if you’re looking for a companion to the excellent 1976 political thriller All the President’s Men.

During an interview with Vanity Fair in 2005, former FBI deputy director Mark Felt finally admitted that he was indeed “Deep Throat,” confirming what many had speculated for years and putting to rest the great mystery surrounding the man who pretty much changed the political landscape of America as we know it. Now, Landesman and Neeson together give us a behind-the-scenes look at the events and how it went down all those years ago from Felt’s perspective.

The audience is introduced to Felt with exposition into his ordinary suburban lifestyle. He was loyal and reliable and as fellow FBI agent Bill Sullivan (Tom Sizemore) describes in the film, possesses the qualities of a well-behaved golden retriever. The events are set into motion when FBI founder and director J. Edgar Hoover is found dead, and President Richard Nixon passes over Felt to appoint loyalist L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) as the new director of the FBI.

Just one month after Hoover’s death in 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Watergate hotel in an effort to wiretap the then Democratic Party Headquarters to help Nixon win the election. In the film, Felt is told to wrap up the investigation into the Watergate burglary in just 48 hours, and he realizes that there is more to the story than the administration is telling. As if being passed up for the director position after being Hoover’s second in command for so many years isn’t enough reason for him to have a vendetta against the Nixon administration, here is something Felt had been vehemently against his whole career: the interference from the White House into the FBI’s work. Felt then decides to enlist the help of the media by leaking information to reporters in order to continue his investigation.

Meanwhile, Felt’s home life is in complete disarray, especially with the turmoil of Felt’s depressive wife, Audrey, played by the versatile Diane Lane. Not only is she depressed over the sacrifices she and her husband have made to the ungrateful bureau, but their older teenage daughter has also run away. Perhaps the entire subplot of his family life is just to give an idea of what all Felt sacrificed for all those loyal years to the FBI, but it comes off as superficial, without any real depth added to it.

Two characters noticeably absent throughout the film are the reporters who broke the story with the exception of a nervous Woodward (Julian Morris), who meets with Felt in an empty parking garage ala All the President’s Men. Maybe Landesman could have delved more into Felt’s relationship with Woodward, but clearly, that is not the filmmaker’s intent. Instead, the writer/director is giving us a bird’s eye view of Felt’s motivations and machinations, and unfortunately, it’s just too dry. There is no sense of real urgency or danger in Mark Felt, and the film just comes off as a by-the-numbers biopic.

Still, the film rings bells and is so very relevant, especially in our current political environment, with stark similarities of corruption and scandal within the White House. Hat’s off to Landesman for finally shining a spotlight on one of the most famous whistleblowers in US history, and one hopes there are more like him out there today.

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