Meet Mark Felt, Steely Savior of Democracy as Deep Throat

TIFF 2017: “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” feels eerily familiar in Trump era

Mark Felt may be the most consequential unknown American of the last half century. In the shadows until shortly before he died in 2008, Felt was known to the world only as “Deep Throat,” the source whose information led to the downfall of Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

Now we get a three dimensional glimpse of the man and his motives in “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,” starring a steely and principled Liam Neeson in the title role.

Obscured in this telling are Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two twenty-something Washington Post reporters to whom Felt leaked information about the corruption and dirty tricks emanating from the Nixon White House.

They’re used to being the heroes — but not this time.

Instead, the focus is Felt himself, a career FBI man and deputy to the FBI director, who is driven by his revulsion at the lying and power-grabbing around him.

There is some question as to whether he was also miffed at being passed over for the top job when J. Edgar Hoover died.

Appalled that the White House tried to shut down the investigation into the Watergate break-in, Felt quickly realized that the culprits were all tied to the West Wing, and that the public would never know it.

The parallels to our current situation in Washington are unmistakeable, particularly given the firing of FBI director James Comey. The comparisons are myriad: Comey’s insistence on the independence of the FBI from the executive branch mirrors Felt’s resistance to pressure from the Nixon White House and the John Deans and HR Haldemans (part of Nixon’s inner circle).

As a principled opponent to the gang of cronies in Nixon’s White House, Felt’s story easily applies to the gang that surrounds Donald Trump.

Just as familiar is the Nixon White House’s obsession with leaks.

The movie tells us about Felt’s home life — his wife Audrey played by a fine Diane Lane and their anguished search for a runaway daughter.

The tale is timely and its message eminently clear: Those who stand up for principle and risk it all for the cause of democracy will, in time, be rewarded with the glory of history.

“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” opens Sept. 29 from Sony Pictures Classics.