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Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017)

September. 29,2017

The story of Mark Felt, who under the name "Deep Throat" helped journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the Watergate scandal in 1974.



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Anyone who knows the story of Watergate is typically fascinated by "Deep Throat", the government informant who tipped off Bob Woodward and the Washington Post about not only the cover-up but about Nixon's operatives who tried to sabotage political enemies. This film attempts to expose who Mark Felt was and why he became Deep Throat. The good news of the film is a tremendous performance by Liam Neeson and a solid supporting cast. The not-so-good news is the lack of juicy moments which were sacrificed. I was a bit unsatisfied by film's end.Mark Felt, a.k.a. Deep Throat, will go down in history as possibly the most famous informant in US history. The question has always loomed: why did he break ranks and leak information to the press? Concerning these two questions, the film succeeds in answering them more or less. Felt was caught between a hard place and the Nixon administration. That hard place was Watergate in which the FBI was the de-facto investigative body. After J. Edgar Hoover died while still serving as FBI director, the White House nominated L. Patrick "Pat" Gray as acting director and put his name forward as a candidate for permanent director. Gray was simply a pawn of the White House and the Nixon administration. The different federal agencies are supposed to act independently to prevent collusion and consolidation of power. Gray came from the military, and Nixon probably believed by putting Gray in the director's chair rather than someone who had decades of experience at the bureau, like Felt, the new administrator would carry out Nixon's bidding. Gray did things as ordered by the White House not realizing the FBI does not submit to the President. Mark Felt also believed he should have been nominated as the new director instead of an outsider like Gray. With these forces acting upon him, Felt relents and engages in behavior which he had never done in 30 years: leak important information to the press. Where the film fails, sadly, is in one of the most important and fascinating aspects of the whole Watergate episode: his relationship with Bob Woodward. The film shows only two phone calls and one garage meeting with Woodward. In "All the President's Men", three meetings are portrayed with Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat. A missed opportunity. I wanted to experience on-screen how Felt and Woodward met and how their relationship developed. This is the juiciest aspect of Felt's story which was compromised. Another side story explored in the film is Felt's daughter who joined a commune. While interesting, I found that tangent less compelling than his relationship with Woodward which was given very little screen time. Overall a bit of a disappointment.

Michael Ledo

This is the biopic of Mark Felt also code named "Deep Throat" by the Washington Post. The production concentrates on the internal workings of the FBI during this time as well as Felt's personal struggle to reunite with his daughter who ran away and joined a hippie commune. It starts about the time J. Edgar Hoover died. The film was timely in a sense as it eerily mirrors the Mueller investigation of the White House. You can't help but think about what is happening today. I am a sucker for history films and tend to over rate them. I would say "All the President's Men" was a superior film and an excellent counterpart. Guide: 1 F-word. No sex or nudity.


In the bonus track of the DVD of "Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House," the film's writer-director Peter Landesman, described enthusiastically how he attempted to depict in the story of lifelong FBI official Mark Felt as "the self-sacrifice of heroism in the face of massive corruption." But for many reasons, Landesman, a talented writer and director, failed to evoke a cinematic superhero in Mark Felt.First, the production values of the film were dark, gloomy, and depressing. Landesman used an antique anamorphic camera lens in the effort to evoke the early 1970s and an aura of suspense. But the results were downright depressing. It was odd that in the bonus track, one of the performers described the 1970s as an exciting time to be alive. But the look of the film resembled a morgue and an ashen-faced Liam Neeson taking on the aura of a galvanized corpse.Second, the overall treatment of the Watergate scandal was superficially treated. The film artists described the environment of the FBI as "black and white" when in fact there were many shades of grey. The men in suits in this film were uniformly depicted as thugs, as opposed to the clean-cut and impeccably dressed men of the Hoover era. The film actually took on the feel of "The Godfather." Third, the film suffered from the subplot of Mark Felt's family, including his marriage to a Lady Macbeth-type wife (Diane Lane) and a daughter who, understandably, had fled home to live in a California commune in Ben Lomand in the wilds of Northern California. Kudos to young Joan for figuring out her parents and making an early exit!Above all, the film failed to probe deeply into the Watergate scandal itself. It was not one man who brought down the president, as the film tried to project. It is likely that after Nixon's trip to China, the intelligence network had had enough of Nixon, and Watergate was the "silent coup" involving multiple participants in the intelligence community, who saw the removal of Nixon from office as being in the best interests of the nation.One of the most important lines in the film was the assertion that "the FBI is an independent body," as opposed to a branch of the federal government that is part of the Department of Justice. The filmmakers missed a golden opportunity to use the story of Mark Felt as an example of how in the years following World War II and continuing to the present, we really have four branches of our government: the executive, the legislative, the judicial, and, as is all too apparent today, the national security network.


From the very beginning, in order to understand everything, you do have to pay close attention to each scene and dialogue. While the cutting in most areas of the movie is very precise and fine for the tone, there were a couple bits that seemed an odd transition. I found the story shown quite intriguing, though I have not looked in detail in the real-life story. The conclusion felt a bit anti-climatic, but it is an okay ending.I would consider this movie watchable if you enjoy a tense and a semi-complicated plot structure for a movie. I would even say it can be re-watched occasionally, though there is little humour displayed.