“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”: slow, stage-like back-story of “Deep Throat” whistleblower on Watergate

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”, directed by Peter Landesman, and based on the autobiography of Mark Felt and John D. O’Connor (by this name, as well as “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat”, and the Struggle for Honor in Washington”.

Mark Felt was the FBI special agent who became the whistleblower who broke open the Watergate scandal.  Felt did not reveal his role publicly until a Vanity Fair article by O’Connor in 2005.

The film is slow-paced and studious, mostly indoors (actually the studios in Atlanta were used), often darkly lit, the furniture plain. It is rather like a stage play. Felt (Liam Neeson), shortly after the Watergate breakin in June 1972, becomes aware that the White House is interfering with the independence of the FBI, particularly in scenes with acting director Patrick Gray (Martom Csokas.  A few weeks before the 1972 election, he makes the famous (“Deep Throat“, as named after the infamous porno film, which I actually saw on Times Square in 1975) pay phone call to Bob Woodward (Julian Morris).  There’s no effect on the landslide in 1972, because Nixon is able to paint the protesters as essentially pinko radicals.

But after the election, moving into 1973, things unravel pretty quickly.  The film telescopes the final months of Nixon’s presidency, which I personally remember well because I was going through a major transition in my own life, having “come out” a second time.  I would start a new job at NBC that would lead to my moving into Greenwich Village the Monday after Nixon’s resignation.

Diane Lane plays Mark’s wife Audrey, and yet you get the feeling that their marriage has become an afterthought.  The script does mention all the scandals underneath J. Edgar Hoover, whose passing is honored early in the film (early 1972).  The script probably just barely hints at the idea that Hoover was likely homosexual himself.

The film never depicts Nixon with an actor, or even Carl Bernstein.

The film is not quite as eventful as “All the President’s Men” (1976, Warner Brothers) by Alan J. Pakula, based on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

Name: “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”
Director, writer:  Peter Landesman, Mark Felt, John O’Connor
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/10/6, late, small audience
Length: 105
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Sony Pictures Classics, Endurance Media, Playtone
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT)