Archive for the ‘Peter Landesman’ Category

Taking Down the West Wing

Mark Felt:

The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Josh Lucas, Tony Goldwyn, Kate Walsh, Marton Csokas, Tom Sizemore, Eddie Marsan, Ike Barinholtz, Maika Monroe, Michael C. Hall, Bruce Greenwood, Julian Morris

Parkland and Concussion director Peter Landesman takes on another factual drama in his detail heavy fictional account of the Watergate scandal called Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the Whitehouse.

It’s April 1972 and Mark Felt, deputy assistant director of the FBI deftly underplayed by a haggard looking Liam Neeson is hoping to get the job of Director of the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover.

Oscar nominee Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) plays Mark Felt brilliantly, underplaying the amount of stress he is under when Felt is by-passed for the directorship for a Nixon crony Gray played by Hungarian actor Marton Csokas (Noah, The Equalizer).

Felt, who always played his cards very close to his chest, realizes that there is a massive conspiracy within government agencies. These fears are confirmed when the magnitude of the Watergate scandal broke in 1972 in which covert ex-spies where caught red handed breaking into the National Democratic Convention headquarters at the Watergate Hotel just prior to the November elections.

President Nixon got re-elected in November 1972 but Mark Felt soon realizes that a move by the government to capture the integrity and independence of the FBI when the slimy Billy Sullivan is poking around headquarters. Sullivan is suitably played by Tom Sizemore who hasn’t been in many films recently but is most remembered for his roles in Natural Born Killers, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Heat.

If audiences like detailed political docudrama then Mark Felt is for them.

Don’t expect action in this drama which is saved by memorable scenes between Neeson and his co-star Oscar nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Trumbo) who plays his wife Audrey Felt as the couple also battle with the disappearance of their wayward daughter Joan played by Maika Monroe (Independence Day).

Mark Felt is a fascinating portrayal of one man’s ability to stick to his own ethics at a time when the Nixon administration was beyond reproach as Felt clandestinely feeds classified information to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward played by Julian Morris and Time magazine journalist Sandy Smith played by Bruce Greenwood.

Felt was indeed the man who brought down the White House and in media circles was known only as deepthroat, a rather sexy title for an informant and extremely valuable source to the Fourth Estate which eventually caused the impeachment of President Richard Nixon and his administration.

Despite the intrigue, Mark Felt does get caught up in the details and scores a film rating of 7 out of 10. It is nevertheless a fascinating film for those that enjoy an intriguing docudrama. 

The film does feature a superb supporting cast including Eddie Marsan, Michael C. Hall, Tony Goldwyn and Josh Lucas. Recommended for viewers that enjoyed director Peter Landesman‘s previous American historical drama Parkland about the assassination of JFK.

 

Burden of Proof

Concussion

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Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Hill Harper, Eddie Marsan, Luke Wilson, Arliss Howard, Stephen Moyer, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paul Reiser

Oscar Nominee Will Smith (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness) revives his career with a superb performance as the diligent Nigerian doctor Dr Bennett Omalu in the medical thriller Concussion directed by Kill the Messenger screenwriter Peter Landesman and based upon a GQ article called The Game Brain written by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Concussion takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2002 where Dr Bennett works as a County forensic pathologist under the guidance of his mentor and sponsor Dr Cyril Wecht played by Albert Brooks (Broadcast News, Drive). After a legendary footballer Mike Webster dies suddenly at the age of 50, Dr Bennet discovers a condition known as repetitive head trauma which effects the brain over a long period of repeated trauma, especially common in those playing major league American Football. Webster, briefly played by David Morse first consults the team’s doctor Julian Bales played by Alec Baldwin before committing suicide.

Concussion as a medical thriller really takes off when two other players suddenly die under suspicious circumstances which leads to more questions than reasonable explanations. Soon Dr Bennett and his persistence in establishing the root cause of their deaths, gets the assistance of two other neuro surgeons Dr Steven DeKosky played by Eddie Marsan and Dr Ron Hamilton played by Stephen Moyer to name the symptom as Repetitive Head Trauma. Medically there is a more complicated name.

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Running concurrently to these medical discoveries, is Dr Bennett’s own plans to become a fully-fledged American citizen who dreams of owning his own home with his Kenyan born wife Prema Mutiso played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw last seen in Belle. However, the immigrant couple’s aspirations are cast into jeopardy when Dr Bennett takes on the most powerful and wealthiest sporting body in America: The National Football League who, Dr Wecht dryly refers to, an organization that next to God owns a day of the week.

As a film, Concussion operates on two levels one as a medical thriller taking on an enormously powerful sporting organization (The NFL) and also as a personal drama of two immigrants Dr Bennett and Prema Mutiso whose pursuit of the American dream is thwarted, not only by racial prejudice but also by a medical discovery which could put into question the potential recruitment of young men to play in the NFL and more significantly what the consequences are for retiring Football players whose days of glory are overshadowed by madness and suicidal tendencies when they reach middle age.

Will Smith delivers a superb performance, mastering a Nigerian accent and Albert Brooks, last seen in Drive, is brilliant as his acerbic yet encouraging mentor who urges Bennett to pursue his medical discoveries despite the consequences and the threats from the NFL, especially when the findings are made public, gaining considerable media attention across America.

Former investigative journalist turned director Peter Landesman’s Concussion is an absorbing medical thriller which should gain a wide audience both in the sporting and medical worlds. By no means a masterpiece, Concussion is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed such films as Moneyball, Thank You for Smoking and the excellent film Michael Clayton about exposing corporate greed in America. It’s also reassuring to see Will Smith back on form tackling a more dramatic and nuanced role.

 

Trauma of an Assassination

Parkland

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Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Giametti, Jacki Weaver, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, Gil Bellows

Investigative journalist and screenwriter Peter Landesman makes his feature film debut with the harrowing reenactment of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day on the 22nd November 2963 and how this pivotal event affected not only the lives of those working at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas but also of those that were caught up in the trauma of the event from the FBI that almost had the assassin in their grasp, to the Oswald family who were shunned by society as relatives of the man who shot JFK.

Parkland, based upon the book Four Days in November by Vincent Bugliosi is an absorbing and graphic retelling of this assassination and features an all star ensemble cast including Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo TV Series), Zac Efron (The Paperboy), James Badge Dale (The Lone Ranger) who is particularly good as Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) as Oswald’s mother Marguerite Marcia Gay Harden as the trauma nurse Doris Nelson along with Paul Giametti as Abraham Zupreder the man who unwillingly films the horrific assassination and then sells the footage to Life magazine. James Badge Dale and Jacki Weaver are particularly good as brother and mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspected assassin of President John F. Kennedy who subsequently gets shot on live television two days after the assassination by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby pointing to a much larger possible conspiracy which was elaborately explored in Oliver Stone’s film J. F. K. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Harvey_Oswald

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Viewers can be forgiven for thinking that this film is a segment from the History channel, but with all the great character actors at hand, they do their best to make Parkland an absorbing and graphic, almost shocking retelling of one the 20th centuries most famous assassinations in Dallas, Texas in 1963. An assassination which awoke America out of a cathartic state and catapulted contemporary Western society further into a culture of violent paranoia and media speculation, something which audiences watching it fifty years later are more accustomed to especially since witnessing the destruction of the New York twin towers on live television on 9/11.

Parkland is recommended viewing and perhaps too short for a 90 minute film as aspects about this historical day could have been fleshed out further beyond the initial shock and trauma of a bloody assassination in the heat of a Texan day. A riveting and engaging film which was possibly made to coincide with the 50th anniversary of this tragic event. Watch out for a cameo by Tom Hank’s son Colin Hanks as the Chief of Surgery at Parkland Memorial Hospital Dr Malcolm Perry.

 

 

 

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