Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (3 stars)

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Solidly absorbing biographical drama about the Watergate whistleblower, starring Liam Neeson

We have grown so accustomed to watching Liam Neeson in action man mode that Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House serves as a welcome reminder of his broader acting range. Gaunt and silver-haired, Neeson plays Felt as an implacable, sphinx-like figure, charged with guarding the dirty secrets of a nation he served for three decades.

Felt was a loyal company man at the FBI and was widely expected to be named as J Edgar Hoover's successor when Hoover died in 1972. Instead, Pat Gray (a reptilian Martin Csokas) is appointed. Felt accepts the news with dignity but it becomes clear that all the rules of Washington politics have changed. The countdown to the 1972 presidential election lends a dramatic structure and urgency to the story of the Watergate break-in and the insider figure who became the whistleblower known as 'Deep Throat'.

A perfect companion film to All the President's Men, Mark Felt is a solidly absorbing drama held together by Neeson's stern, steely performance. The actor invests Felt with the righteous anger of an Old Testament preacher and makes us understand why such an establishment figure was prepared to spill the beans to The Washington Post and commit acts of treason.

Writer-director Peter Landesman sacrifices some of the film's focus to incorporate the sentimental side show of Felt's search for his missing daughter, a radical who has embraced the counterculture movement. It underlines Felt's determination to do the right thing by family and country, but feels expendable in a film that already has enough juicy material to cover – from a crooked, paranoid President in the White House, to the threat of unprecedented political interference in the running of the FBI. Parallels with the current tumultuous times in the Washington swamp are hard to resist.

Selected release from Fri 23 Mar.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 43min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Peter Landesman
  • Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Marton Csokas
  • UK release: 23 March 2018

Mark Felt (Neeson) is a loyal FBI agent who observes how a corrupt White House is changing all the rules, and determines to do the right thing by his country by talking to journalists. Neeson lends the role his trademark steeliness, and parallels with the current tumultuous times in Washington are hard to resist.