The Unknown Known (2013)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 2013.  , , , .  Screenplay by Errol Morris.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , Errol Morris.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Errol Morris trains his humorous and incisive lens on the career of , most famous (if not notorious) for his years as Secretary of Defense during the administration of George W. Bush and a key player in leading America into the Iraq War.  Looking to make the same kind of exploration of the human frailties that lie behind acts of political might as he did in The Fog Of War, Morris covers Rumsfeld’s decades in Washington, including his early stints under Nixon and Ford, but does not come up with much that is as explosive as his Oscar-winning film revealed.  Robert McNamara’s accounts of bombing Japan in retaliation for Pearl Harbour focused on ugly truths residing just beneath the surface of a favourably received war narrative of Allied victory (at least in the western world); here, Rumsfeld reveals that they may have been wrong to assume that the existence of Weapons Of Mass Destruction justified the invasion of Iraq a decade earlier, but that kind of admission is nothing notable for a war that has been controversial since before it even began.  Morris does maintain his level of high-quality direction, with gorgeous graphics and a rich musical score by Danny Elfman, and hearing Rumsfeld’s career from his own point of view does make for engaging and entertaining viewing.  With his snake-oil salesman smile and pointed responses to Morris’ questions, Rumsfeld is a succinct interview subject who is never off-putting even when he is being cagey in his testimony.  That said, he neither lets the curtain down enough for memorable revelations, nor he is showman enough to say that his arrogance is captivating.

Venice Film Festival:  In Competition

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