Adequate, Yet Inadequate: Our Review of ‘Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, Theatrical, TIFF 2017 by - October 12, 2017
Adequate, Yet Inadequate: Our Review of ‘Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House’

Sometimes in order to preserve one’s ideals and beliefs the system in which they exist needs to be torn down to the ground brick by brick.

With Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House we get the other side of the story that was so eloquently put together in the classic All The President’s Men all those years ago and while Liam Neeson was more then up to the task, the rest of the film just never felt like it was worthy of the material that it was mining.

It’s the story of ‘Deep Throat’ himself;  the pseudonym given to the notorious whistleblower for one of the greatest scandals of all time, Watergate. The true identity of the secret informant remained a mystery and source of much public curiosity and speculation for more than 30 years. That is until, in 2005, special agent Mark Felt  (Liam Neeson) shockingly revealed himself as the tipster. This unbelievable true story chronicles the personal and professional life of the brilliant and uncompromising Felt, who risked and ultimately sacrificed everything;  his family, his career, his freedom all in the name of justice and everything that he held dear about his country.

While it’s admittedly a fascinating pot-boiler of a story with a leading man performance that just knocks it out of the park, too much of Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House felt like perfunctory historical bullet points and this rich and deeply layered chapter in American history just deserved a little bit more.

Writer/Director Peter Landesman has a clear cut storytelling style that does work for him fairly well, but in this case it doesn’t quite work as well as hoped.  Landesman an ex-reporter himself is always very fact oriented and moves along his narrative with the truth as the driving force of it all.  Its well shot and well made, but it lacks a certain degree of nuance and style to it.  Diving back into this time period should be a little bit more than a fact finding mission and in many ways the entire film plays like an A&E documentary narrated by Peter Coyote rather than a feature story that needs to develop characters and become more engaging on an emotional level rather than just telling the audience ‘what happened’ from this date to that date.  Granted it’s not devoid of that, but he made what is essentially a very personal story while forgetting to give it a little more actual personality.

As the ‘G-Man’s G-Man’; Liam Neeson was really the only one in this picture to give us a little pathos and genuine human emotion.  Felt  was at his core a tortured soul who gave his entire life to service at the cost of relationships with his wife and daughter because he wasn’t afraid to stand up for what the FBI and government in general meant, or at least should mean.  When he saw himself getting passed over by new reins of power that were being installed and flouting the very constitution of the United States and trying to operate above the law he did the only thing he could do to save his country and made sure that the corrupt system got exposed.  Neeson plays Felt with both vigour and sensitivity as we see this man struggle with tearing his entire belief system apart in order to truly save it and he captures that conflicted nature of the man very well without sacrificing any kind of stage presence, he just owns the entire movie from beginning to end.   Sadly outside of Neeson there just isn’t anyone who manages to capture the audience at any time and this is an ensemble featuring the likes of Bruce Greenwood, Josh Lucas, Diane Lane,  Martin Csokas, Michael C Hall, Tony Goldwyn, Kate Walsh, Maika Monroe, Tom Sizemore, Noah Wyle, Brian D’Arcy James & Ike Barinholtz just to name a few and it pulls focus as we are waiting for a little bit more to ultimately unfold.

At the end of the day, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House is a decent enough little historical thriller but given the pedigree of the talent involved and of the moment in time that it is depicting you can’t help but feel like it needed just a little bit more to really make it as memorable as I’m sure most people were hoping it would be.

This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.