Mark Felt was Deep Throat. If you weren’t born before 1970, it’s possible you’ll think I’ve just stated gibberish… or I’m about to introduce porn. More than any other being, Mark Felt -as an codenamed insider source- was responsible for holding President Richard Nixon accountable to the American people. In doing so, he violated institutional integrity, something he abhorred, choosing -essentially- the existence of institutions like the FBI ahead of adhering to the laws of institutions like the FBI.

That’s quite the dilemma, huh? In order to save the FBI as an independent investigating agency, Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) had to violate the FBI’s chain of command, which is tantamount to treason. It takes a big man to commit treason to uncover bigger treason. It’s a shame this isn’t a bigger film.

The thing that always gets me about the Nixon presidency is Watergate happened in summer of 1972, but Nixon didn’t resign until the summer of 1974. He won an election in between those dates … an election that nobody wants to revisit. This is the nature of history. It doesn’t matter who should have won; it only matters who took office and what HE did when HE got there. The dirty deeds creating success, the lies and innuendo, the stupidity of the voting masses is all retrospectively irrelevant. 100% of America could insist that injustice happened, yet Hillary Clinton will still never be President.  Her story is insignificant, no matter what Fox News insists.

Back to the movie, which I am reluctant to describe because it was darn stuffy. Most of it takes place at FBI headquarters, where office doors are opened and closed with significance … oooh, look, that stiff white guy is in conference with that stiff white guy, but won’t let that other stiff white guy in. I hate to be blasé, but that’s exactly how this movie Felt. J. Edgar Hoover died, leaving a power vacuum. Felt should have had the job, but he was on Nixon’s shit list and, hence, Tricky Dick gave the job to a crony, L. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas). When news of the Watergate hotel break-in happened, Gray -presumably under Nixon’s thumb- made FBI investigation of such a non-priority, while Felt -continuing to act as #2- undermined fifty shades of Gray’s authority on behalf of the FBI itself.  BTW, what if I started calling this the S. Frog Blog?  Would I get to head the FBI?

Meanwhile, Audrey Felt (Diane Lane) is inserted periodically to remind people that women did exist in 1972, and they were, for the most part, pissed off.

This slice of history walked a fine line between too much and too little detail. Of course, it didn’t exactly walk this line so much as stagger all over it, constantly veering too far and too shallow in each direction. Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House had no problem naming every last FBI man, journalist, and white house worker employed in 1972, but said next-to-nothing about any of them. As J. Edgar Hoover’s right-hand man, Mark Felt knew more secrets than anyone in America, if not the world. Ummm, movie, want to share any of these secrets, perhaps? No? How about just the ones that pertain to break-in/impeachment? No? Sure, that makes sense. We’re only the audience; we’re not on a need-to-know basis.

Hence, while this biography should have made a statement about politics, like All the President’s Men, it instead underscored the importance of Mark Felt, somebody who believes institutions are worth more than partisanship. Yes, that’s a lesson we need right now.  However, that’s also a great way of making a big movie into a little movie.

As we Americans currently have an unqualified goof of a leader who doesn’t quite comprehend the difference between “President” and “tyrant,” this film should have played like an instruction manual for impeachment. And yet, the best it came around to paralleling our current political predicament was stating how elusive justice is when should-be officers of independence (like, for instance, the director of the FBI … or any elected legislator) indulge in partisan toadying ahead of governance. If that does it for you, super; personally, I’m more into the other Deep Throat.

Investigation is no day at the beach
When G-Men don’t practice their preach
Does the Prez’ blood-stained hand
Match a discard unplanned?
If the glove fits, you must impeach

Rated PG-13, 103 Minutes
Director: Peter Landesman
Writer: Peter Landesman
Genre: The original “-gate”
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Mark Felt
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Truth suppressors

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