Liam Neeson comes across as a pillar of beleaguered rectitude in the role of Mark Felt, the FBI official dubbed Deep Throat, whose leaks to the press helped blow the whistle on the Watergate conspiracy. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.

Share story

There stands Liam Neeson like a pillar of beleaguered rectitude in “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.” Tall, silver-haired, tastefully attired in a dark pinstriped suit, he cuts a dignified, no-nonsense figure in the role of the deputy associate director of the FBI during the time of the Watergate scandal.

High up in the agency’s hierarchy, second only to J. Edgar Hoover in terms of the power he wields, he’s fiercely protective of the bureau he served for 30-plus years. When Hoover dies suddenly in 1972 and Felt is passed over by Richard Nixon for promotion to the top spot, the snub sets in motion events that lead to the unraveling of the Nixon presidency.

Movie Review ★★★  

‘Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,’ with Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Marton Csokas, Julian Morris, Michael C. Hall, Wayne Pére, Tony Goldwyn. Written and directed by Peter Landesman. 103 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some language. Opens Oct. 20 at several theaters.

Angered by the rejection and even more deeply when he realizes the move was made to put a Nixon toady, L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas), into the directorship to quash the FBI’s probe into the Watergate break-in and cover-up, Felt goes rogue. But quietly. Secretly.

He contacts reporters. He leaks inside information on the cover-up efforts. He becomes the source The Washington Post dubs Deep Throat, meeting with Bob Woodward (Julian Morris) in a dark D.C. parking garage to selectively spill the beans.

Filmed in bleak green-gray hues, writer-director Peter Landesman’s movie depicts D.C. as a nest of vipers, of conspiracies within conspiracies, of paranoia begetting paranoia.

Nixon’s paranoia enables the break-in at the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 presidential campaign and then escalates as his people, John Dean (Michael C. Hall) and John Ehrlichman (Wayne Pére) among them, try to smoke out the leaker. Felt is suspected, and frantically checks his office for electronic bugs.

Neeson’s Felt is deeply conflicted about being a turncoat. He’s also deeply flawed, a man who authorized illegal activities to track down members of the terrorist Weather Underground.

Early on, when Dean and others try to pressure him to turn over Hoover’s rumored confidential files containing dirt on all kinds of people in government, Felt lets them know he is privy to those secrets and delivers an instructive little lecture. “We at the FBI know all your secrets.” And with a basilisk’s stare, informs, “We’re the FBI. All your secrets are safe with us.” Until they were not.

Not a man to cross, or pressure, without grave consequences.