Water­gate more dra­matic in real life than on screen

Vancouver Sun - - MOVIES - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­night@post­media.com twit­ter.com/chrisknight­film

In most movies, a char­ac­ter like Mark Felt — a high-rank­ing FBI in­for­mant known to the world for decades only as Deep Throat — would be the sur­prise twist in the fi­nal act.

Here, his­tory has al­ready un­masked the mys­tery man, so what plea­sure there is to be had comes from watch­ing him turn from keeper of se­crets to spiller of same.

So why is the re­sult­ing film so dry?

Writer-di­rec­tor Peter Lan­des­man (Park­land, Con­cus­sion) is work­ing from Felt’s own au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, which may be part of the prob­lem.

In re­spect­ing the arc of the man’s life, he may have jet­ti­soned too many of the rules of good nar­ra­tive. Cer­tainly, the drama of a way­ward daugh­ter (Maika Mon­roe) and a con­cerned wife (Diane Lane) can only be a dis­trac­tion when you’re Bring­ing Down the White House.

The story opens on April 11, 1972 — 203 days be­fore the 1972 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, we’re told, although that kind of tick­ing­clock sus­pense will soon be for­got­ten. More im­por­tantly, it turns out, we’re just three weeks away from the death of J. Edgar Hoover.

When the found­ing di­rec­tor of the FBI died af­ter al­most

40 years in the of­fice, the re­sult­ing power vac­uum was hur­ri­cane-force.

Im­me­di­ately, agents took to burn­ing and/or shred­ding Hoover’s most se­cret files. But while that kind of scorched-earth pol­icy had been planned, suc­ces­sion was less cer­tain.

Within a day, then U.S. pres­i­dent Richard Nixon had

ap­pointed out­sider L. Pa­trick Gray (Mar­ton Csokas) to lead the bu­reau. Felt (Liam Nee­son), a 30-year FBI vet­eran, be­came his sec­ond in com­mand.

A lit­tle knowl­edge of Water­gate his­tory is help­ful to view­ers. Lan­des­man doesn’t waste time with on­screen iden­ti­fiers, although we do see the odd name­plate on a door or desk.

We’re ex­pected to keep up with the play­ers, in­clud­ing Michael C. Hall as White House coun­sel John Dean, Josh Lu­cas as the bu­reau’s Wash­ing­ton chief, and Bruce Green­wood as Time magazine’s Sandy Smith, a jour­nal­ist with a nose for sniff­ing out po­lit­i­cal scan­dal.

In the end, Felt’s real story is more ex­cit­ing — or at least po­ten­tially so — than the ver­sion that plays out on the screen. Even the park­ing garage where he met The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Bob Wood­ward (a mil­que­toast Ju­lian Mor­ris) feels un­der­played given its his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance. One al­most sus­pects some kind of coverup at play. Or maybe Felt’s in­volve­ment is just too big to cover in an hour and three quar­ters.

All the Pres­i­dent’s Men had an ex­tra half an hour — and didn’t even have to deal with Hoover.

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