Film Review: Mark Felt, The Man Who Brought Down The White House

Liam Neeson stars in a new take on the Watergate scandal, flipping the perspective from journalists-on-the-street to an examination from the highest offices of power.

FBI second-in-command Mark Felt had an unparalleled view on the US government at the time that Richard Nixon was implicated in Watergate, and his vantage point shows that the scandal was just icing sugar on a deeply corrupt cake.

Based on a true story of the most famous anonymous man in American history, Felt became known as the “Deep Throat” in the 1970s scandal, sacrificing over 30 years of work in the FBI to bring what he knew to light.

The events strike startling parallels to current political turmoil in America – including power struggles between the executive branch and the FBI, evidence of election dirty tricks, and renewed White House challenges to the veracity of the media.

It is one of the few tales that is left to be told on the scandal, but although it is undoubtedly worthwhile hearing out, it is painfully complex and convoluted. It puts a spotlight on the FBI’s dealings with the CIA, the attorney general and the Department of Justice. It exposes legal loopholes, secret connections and is forced to move like a bullet point list from one scene to the next just to account for the sheer volume of remarkable occurrences across the whole saga.

But therein lies the rub. The difficulty with whistleblower films is that the filmmakers have to decide early on whether the whistleblower is the story or the story is the story. Felt, who doesn’t have the notoriety or currentness of say, Assange or Snowdon, seems to get absorbed into the story even though it’s about him, and so the focus gets lost.

As Neeson himself says half way through the film, the objective of the government during the time was to get everyone lost in the detail, because confusion is control. Unfortunately this film is guilty of projecting the same mass sprawl of information onto its audience, and the results are much the same.


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