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The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby (2011)



Average Rating: 7.1/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 283

My Rating

Movie Info

A son's riveting look at a father whose life seemed straight out of a spy thriller, The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby uncovers the secret world of a legendary CIA spymaster. Told by William Colby's son Carl, the story is at once a probing history of the CIA, a personal memoir of a family living in clandestine shadows, and an inquiry into the hard costs of a nation's most cloaked actions. -- (C) Official Site


Documentary, Special Interest

Apr 17, 2012


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All Critics (27) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (4) | DVD (1)

At once a deeply personal film and an important historical document, The Man Nobody Knew leaves us with an incomplete portrait of a man.

January 19, 2012 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
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There's a reason spies are called spooks; it's as if they have no human essence. If William Colby had one, his son hasn't found it in this film. But he has found the emptiness. And that's something.

December 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
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Presumably, Colby would be pleased to know he comes across as neither compelling nor vivid - which in some ways makes him all the more interesting.

November 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

To some degree, its subject remains tantalizingly unknowable, even after all the witnesses have taken the stand.

October 28, 2011 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
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October 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A remarkable feat of personalized biography.

October 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is a riveting and important film that does not rest too heavily on the connection between its subject's personal emptiness and the moral failures Colby would come to regret.

December 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Beliefnet

Shows little sign of the deep emotional undercurrents one might expect in a son's treatment of his father, but it does present a clear, incisive yet tantalizingly incomplete portrait of a fascinating and complicated man.

December 9, 2011 Full Review Source: One Guy's Opinion
One Guy's Opinion

It takes far too long for "The Man Nobody Knew" to get to the point.

December 8, 2011 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

A movie seemingly about the blinkered awakening of a conscience, but one that dances around intrigue without ever consistently engaging it.

December 7, 2011 Full Review Source:

Well-constructed, but to little purpose other than the personal.

December 2, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

A great guy? Not really, and fortunately son Carl Colby avoids sentimentalizing his dad.

November 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Goes a bit further than that to become a study of American foreign policy and CIA involvement

October 28, 2011 Full Review Source:

...a must-see for anyone interested in what happened from 1945-mid '70s, and why. With fascinating audio tapes from the Kennedy White House, it's a prologue for where we are today.

October 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Tolucan Times
Tolucan Times

The Man Nobody Knew is a character study that doubles as a history lesson.

September 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Fascinating, deeply researched documentary about the long career of elusive CIA spymaster William Colby by his son provides more lessons about how access counts in both espionage and filmmaking.

September 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby

To be honest, "The Man Nobody Knew" is not the quite the documentary I was expecting. While this is not entirely a bad thing(there is some great use of rare archival material), it is still a shame that Carl Colby pretty much just works around the margins in trying to get to know who his father, William Colby, former head of the CIA, really was. Such secretiveness was not just due to his father's occupation but his generation when it was not required of a father to be friends with his son or for a man to reveal his feelings or weaknesses. Also of that generation were preconceptions of the Cold War that led to Communist defeat in Italy after World War II but not in Vietnam. While William Colby and family were getting to know President Diem in Saigon, a nationalist struggle was taking root in the countryside.(Not mentioned are canceled elections mandated by the Geneva Accords to unite the country.) So while there is plenty of testimony in favor of the security of the Strategic Hamlet program, nobody mentions that this also cut off the peasants from their land. The Phoenix Program quickly got out of hand, angering the next generation to find out what has been carried out in their name. So William Colby takes the heat in front of Congress and is fired from the CIA while Nelson Rockefeller, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissinger, a true Axis of Evil, are left in power.
October 16, 2011
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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