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The Unknown Known
The Unknown Known movie poster

The Unknown Known Movie Review

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Donald Rumsfeld is an arrogant son of a bitch. He's also had a front seat view of many of the most significant American events that have unfolded over the last several decades. In The Unknown Known, Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris (The Fog of War) sits down with the man, and nothing is off limits.

A straightforward documentary if there ever was one, The Unknown Known essentially puts the former secretary of defense in the chair and asks him about everything from Nixon to Ford, and of course about September 11 and the controversial invasion of Iraq. Rumsfeld was, after all, the chief architect of the war.

Rumsfeld is surprisingly straightforward on a variety of issues, and his insights into the many historical events the movie covers are often fascinating. I was as much a fan of Rumsfeld as I was the Bush administration, which is to say I wasn't much a fan at all, but Rumsfeld appears to be sincere in what comes off as a very candid and bidirectional conversation between the interviewer and subject.

I use the word "appears," because you can never be sure. Rumsfeld has never lacked charisma. He is well spoken and personable. He is also a lifelong politician who has served alongside several presidents. So you never know for sure, and depending on your political allegiances and leanings, your faith in his words only go so far.

Rumsfeld has little to lose from talking about events that happened decades earlier (well, other than his lasting legacy and reputation), and he seems to be more open about talking about these things. Once you get to 9/11 and the Iraq War, Morris isn't able to get much out of him that he hasn't already declared publicly, typically while wearing that shit-eating grin he's known for. You could take him at face value, but I wouldn't.

Validity aside, The Unknown Known is still an absorbing documentary about a very interesting individual. Recommended.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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