Written By: Beka Perlstein…
As I watched Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a movie about modern day politics. I wasn’t around during the Nixon years, so the story itself was intriguing to me, but as the film played I just became increasingly frustrated that history was seemingly repeating itself. Mark Felt was as they said, “the G-Man’s G Man.” He worked for the FBI for 31 years and it’s made clear at the outset of the film that under Hoover, he was the guy that held the key to Pandora’s Box. Felt knew when to talk, when to keep his mouth shut, when to bark and when to bite. Everyone in Washington knew not to cross him for fear of their secrets leaking. But that wasn’t Mark Felt. He. Did. Not. Leak.
Until they came for the institution. Mark Felt devoted his life to the FBI. Director Peter Landesman does an excellent job of illustrating what family life is like for someone in this role. Mark Felt is played by Liam Neeson, who sounded a bit too British for a G-Man, and Diane Lane plays his wife. She plays lonely like it’s all she’s ever known. There is a scene where she confronts Neeson after he is passed over for a promotion that is raw, and biting, and rings true for anyone who has ever given up a part of themselves to make another whole.
After Hoover dies, Mark Felt is passed over for promotion as the head honcho. A Nixon insider is brought in who has never served in the FBI and this rocks Felt. It becomes clear that The White House is trying to make a power play, trying to keep the agency under its thumb in an unprecedented way. When Watergate breaks, this becomes crystal clear as he is told to wrap up his investigate within 48 hours. He has never been told to shut it down without first figuring out answer. This isn’t a workable solution for him and Felt decides to push back.
The best part about this film is that there are so many great actors involved, even if it’s in smaller roles that you get to enjoy a pretty great cast. It seems like everyone signed on for this: Ike Barinholtz, Josh Lucas, Wendy McClendon-Covey, Tony Goldwyn, Michael C. Hall, Tom Sizemore, Noah Wyle, Kate Walsh– the list goes on. This film had the ability in my opinion to be phenomenal, but it fizzles. The tension builds and builds regarding these massive secrets that are meant to bring down Nixon, and in the end he just kind of quits. As I said, it eerily mimics how today’s political climate feels, and at this point I don’t really care if Trump just quits, but when the entire movie is centered around “bringing down the white house,” I want to know the dirt that caused it to crumble. It felt like a firecracker that was lit and just kind of fizzled as opposed to a firework that went boom.
Is it a waste of time? Absolutely not. It can be slow at points, but it’s interesting and intriguing and it makes you think about what’s really important when it comes down to it. If someone who towed the company line for 31 years, with nothing to show for it, was willing to give it all up because he knew what was happening wasn’t right, then isn’t it time more people stood for something?