The Unknown Known (2014)
Critic Consensus: Viewers hoping to see Donald Rumsfeld admit making mistakes in public office (or hoping Errol Morris will force him to give straight answers) may find The Unknown Known frustrating -- but no less fascinating.
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Critic Reviews for The Unknown Known
Morris is admirably evenhanded, never demonizing his subject, but giving him enough rope to hang himself. Rumsfeld, cool and bemused, refuses to knot the noose.
By now the director's technique is so savvy, so confident in its visual layering and atmospheric assurance, even a dodgy, cagey camera subject such as Rumsfeld becomes movieworthy.
Morris doesn't "break" Rumsfeld, as some think he did McNamara. He has held a mirror up to the man, and found no reflection. The viewer simply has to realize that what's important is what's not there.
What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a bygone approach to power, marked by a seemingly contradictory mix of transparency and obfuscation. Rumsfeld embodies that discrepancy.
Audience Reviews for The Unknown Known
A feature length interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield that (perhaps unfairly, perhaps understandably) turns into a referendum on the Iraqi invasion and the War on Terror. There are no bombshells---Rumsfield is far too savvy to sabotage himself---so this effort only adds a little context for political junkies, while being unlikely to sway anyone's opinion of this enigmatic and powerful man in one direction or another.
An extraordinary documentary about one of the most interesting figures in American politics, The Unknown Known is a fascinating look at former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In the film documentarian Errol Morris conducts an extensive interview with Rumsfeld, covering his work in the Nixon & Ford administrations, the events of 9/11, and the War on Terror. A lot of this is done through Rumsfeld's restorations and explanations of his own extensive memorandums and dictations. And, surprisingly it's not as much of a liberal hit piece as one would expect. Though Morris steers the line of questioning at some points, Rumsfeld is allowed to speak for himself; leaving the audience to decide what to make of him. Refreshing and honest, The Unknown Known is a true documentary that allows its subject to take its own course without subterfuge or agenda.
Fascinating glimpse into Donald Rumsfeld via his own words, thoughts, pauses, and mental gymnastics.
One might claim that Morris edited this interview to promote his own agenda, and they would be correct - however, history is on Morris's side as he ask questions and allows Rumsfeld to talk openly, and talk he does, piling contradiction upon contradiction with his semantic reinterpretations and impish grin.
What you are left with is a fascinating glimpse into the mind and reactions of a sociopath.
Even if you happen to agree with Rumsfeld's perspective of reality, his ability to obfuscate details and claim the moral high ground without a touch of irony will give you pause.
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