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Friday, April 20, 2018


(Liam Neeson plays Mark Felt)

This brooding drama shows how one of the world’s most famous whistle-blowers nailed a US President. (Review by Patrick Compton - 6/10)

This film’s literal, long-winded title suggests that the real name of the famous “Deep Throat” in the Watergate scandal remains hardly known.

Liam Neeson takes time off from his recent spate of vigilante thrillers to powerfully portray the role of deputy FBI director Mark Felt, the man who became the Washington Post’s key informant during the 1972/3 scandal that toppled Richard Nixon.

Far better known, of course, thanks to movies like All the President’s Men, is the role played by the Post’s two muck-raking journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose articles helped to sink Nixon following the break-in at the Democratic Party’s headquarters. In fact, it was only when Felt revealed his identity to a magazine in 2005 that his role became widely known.

Neeson gives a solemn, almost monumental performance as a man who has spent a lifetime at the FBI under the dominant J Edgar Hoover who dies shortly after the movie starts. You can almost sense Felt’s halo as writer-director Peter Landesman presents him as an FBI hero, a man who carries his integrity around with him like a suit of armour. The possibility that the White House might be trying to improperly influence the organisation in their investigation of the break-in is enough to trigger a sense of outrage in this career bureaucrat, “the G-man’s G-man”.

A more cynical observer might think that Felt’s motives for spilling the beans might also have something to do with bitterness at being passed over for the top job after Hoover’s death. We can only guess, however, as the film prefers to paint Felt in a more glowing light.

Landesman shoots the film as a noir thriller, full of bleak-toned colours and shadowy profiles. This is a world of spies, double-crossers and men on the make. Among these beasts in the Washington jungle, a sharp-featured Neeson cuts an eerie, almost ghost-like figure as he observes this world of duplicity and corruption.

If Felt’s character remains largely inscrutable, the sometimes clumsy script does allow for some personal touches, with Diane Lane convincing as Felt’s heavy-drinking, unhappy wife who, along with her husband, attempts to track down their politically radical runaway daughter.

The movie might be addressing an event that took place 46 years ago, but its themes have a contemporary flavour given President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey last year.

Mark Felt opened at Gateway and the Pavilion on April 20, 2018. – Patrick Compton