Mark Felt: Lethargy Kills What Could’ve Been an Interesting Political Thriller
The latest political thriller from Parkland’s Peter Landesman brings the story of Mark Felt; the FBI’s Associate Director, who, working under the pseudo name ‘Deep Throat’, provided top-secret information about the Watergate scandal to Washington Post and Time magazine, which eventually led to the fall of President Richard Nixon.
Adapted from Mark Felt’s 2006 autobiography, which was co-written by John O’Connor; it all begins with the death of the legendary FBI founder, J. Edgar Hoover; an occurrence which leaves his most trusted colleague, Mark Felt, (Neeson) wondering if he will be the one to assume his position. Unfortunately, the White House, particularly Richard Nixon (only seen through news clips) who is now in his final year of his first term in the office, has other plans in mind. Overlooking Felt, he appoints an outsider with zero law experience, L. Patrick Gray (Csokas), Acting FBI Director instead, leaving Felt infuriated but not surprised with the President’s decision.
Afraid that the new directorship will strip the bureau of its independence and, ultimately, destroy everything that the FBI represents, Felt decides to stay on as the number 2 for the sake of the agency and the people; read into that what you will. Parallel to that, Felt also faces domestic difficulties; dealing with his troubled wife, Audrey (Lane delivering a shaky performance), thanks to the disappearance of their daughter, Joan (It Follows’ Maika Monroe). It all soon comes crumbling down when Gray, under pressure from the White House, instructs the FBI to sabotage the investigation of the Watergate burglary, leaving Felt with no choice but to reach out to Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (played by a little-too-green for the role Morris) and Time’s Sandy Smith (Greenwood) to help keep the investigation going.
The story delivers a point-by-point account of the infamous Watergate scandal, however, thanks to the superficial and slightly muted nature of its exposition, those who are not already familiar with the story, won’t benefit much from what is given. Even the side of the story, which involves Felt’s personal crisis and his fear that his daughter has joined the extremist organization called the Weather Underground, doesn’t get any weight and keeps the audience away from the more intriguing aspects of the film. Naturally, most of the screen-time is devoted to Felt, the role to which Neeson brings both feared and loved authority with his signature stoic acting technique, but, not without a sense of lethargy and dullness in his portrayal.
Serving to be some sort of a reverse take on Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 classic, All the President’s Men- a movie to watch if you are interested in exploring the material further- Mark Felt is an interesting, if not a familiar political-thriller that bolsters an appealing premise and an engaging lead performance from Neeson. However, it never truly takes off in the direction that it was aiming for, with the execution lacking energy and passion to see the material through to the end.