LESSONS OF MARK FELT MAY APPLY TO TRUMPOCRACY
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House explains who was the “Deep Throat” leaking damning information about President Richard Nixon’s role in Watergate to Time magazine and the Washington Post. As third in line to the FBI Director, Mark Felt (played by Liam Neesom) expects to be promoted when J. Edgar Hoover suddenly dies during the 1972 presidential election campaign after the Watergate burglary. Felt quickly has Hoover’s secret file destroyed just before Nixon appointed L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) as acting director. Gray then tries to work with Felt, who becomes Associate Director. But Gray is assigned not only to send the then-nonexistent secret file to Nixon but also to shut down the Watergate investigation, infuriating Felt that politics is intruding into the independence of the FBI. The White House suspects that Felt is Deep Throat but tries to isolate him by having immediate subordinates go around him, be reassigned to field offices, or possibly wiretapping him, and he is later fired. Felt leaks information about Nixon’s effort to obstruct justice to the press, also ensuring that Gray would not be confirmed as full-time FBI director.
Felt’s personal life is also revealed. Having been reassigned to various field offices in his early career with the FBI, his daughter Joan (Maika Monroe), evidently alienated by having no permanent home and by Felt’s wife Audrey (Diane Lane), had joined the Weather Underground, so he seeks to find her—and does. But in the process of searching for her, he orders the FBI without a legal warrant to intercept mail as well as break into and wiretap homes of members of the Weather Underground, a civil liberties offense for which Felt is found guilty during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, though he is pardoned by President Ronald Reagan during his appeal. Titles at the end fill in historical details, including Felt’s public admission that he was Deep Throat in 2005, his death in 2008 and his book written with John D. O’Connor, A G-Man’s Life (2006).
Director Peter Landesman did much research for the film, evidently consulting Felt’s FBI file, which was released to the public in 2012. Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, which has a narrative that contradicts some elements in the book All the President’s Men (1974), has been nominated by the Political Film Society as best film exposé of 2017. MH