Watergate whistleblower Mark Felt gets a dull biopic

Felt spends a lot of time making phone calls.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics / Courtesy

Two and a half stars

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Marton Csokas. Directed by Peter Landesman. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday at Village Square.

Starting with its cumbersome term paper-style title, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House lays out its historical story as a dry, bullet-pointed lecture, less a drama than a series of re-enactments. Despite an impressive cast led by Liam Neeson as the title character, the movie almost never achieves any emotional resonance, and its efforts to portray Felt’s personal life are as perfunctory as its breakneck march through months of developments in the Watergate investigation.

Known for decades only by the code name “Deep Throat,” Felt revealed his identity publicly in 2005, and writer-director Peter Landesman uses Felt’s own memoir as part of his source material. The facts, then, are solid, as FBI associate director Felt becomes increasingly frustrated with the White House’s interference with the investigation of the 1972 Watergate break-in and eventually decides to leak confidential information to reporters, finally leading to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

But Landesman, who made the similarly stilted real-life drama Concussion, is so focused on facts that he has his characters constantly delivering awkward exposition, repeating basic information to each other for the benefit of the audience. Most of Felt’s colleagues come off as interchangeable, and Diane Lane doesn’t fare much better as Felt’s long-suffering wife. The closing title cards convey just as much information—and are nearly as entertaining—as any of the preceding scenes.

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