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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rumsfeld exposé/exposed: "Everything seems amazing in retrospect", 8 April 2014
By 
Paul Allaer (Cincinnati) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unknown Known [DVD] (DVD)
"The Unknown Known" (2013 release; 103 min.) is the latest documentary from Errol "The Fog of War" Morris, this time interviewing former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The title of the documentary reflects on one of the thousands of memos (so-called "snowflakes") that Rumsfeld issued during his tenure: "What You Know", the "unkown known" being "things you think you know but it turns out you didn't know". Translated: the epic failure of Iraq post-invasion, when it became clear that the Pentagon didn't have a game plan on how to deal with things after Sadam Hussein was overthrown. The documentary goes back or Rumsfeld's early days, back to the 60s when he was elected to Congress before taking various administration positions with Presidents Ford and Reagan, thankfully including some great archive shots and photos. But the focus of this documentary is clearly the 2003-2004 era of the Iraq invasion.

Couple of comments: Rumsfeld always has been someone who loves the camera and the spotlight, and easily providing memorable quotes or answers, and this documentary is more proof of that. Morris: "How did you propose to your wife?" Rumsfeld: "Imperfectly", ha! Morris: "Isn't it amazing how they were able to pull off 9-11?" Rumsfeld: "Everything seems amazing in retrospect". When the photo scandal in the Abu Dabi prison broke, Rumsfeld offered to resign, but President Bush refused, to Rumsfeld's regret. Yet despite all that, when you see him contradicting himself about whether or not Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, you just shake your head in disgust. The documentary ends with Morris asking Rumsfeld: "Why are you talking to me?". What does Rumsfeld respond? Just watch! As an aside, veteran film composer Danny Elfman provides a subtle but very nice soundtrack to the film.

This movie opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this past weekend. I went to see it right away, and the late matinee screening was reasonably well attended. Truth be told, I enjoyed the documentary more than I expected. If you want some insights on the war in Iraq and all the misery that brought along with it, "The Unknown Known: is definitely worth checking out, be it in the theater or on DVD
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Unknown Known [DVD] (DVD)
absolutely fascinating, bizarrely compelling. The extras with interviews and QandA with Erroll Morris are well worth watching too..
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5.0 out of 5 stars For those who want to know, 7 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Unknown Known [DVD] (DVD)
I bought this as a consequence of being so impressed by "The fog of War" video. I was not disappointed. This has to be a five star as few documentaries give a real insight into how those at the top think. For those who are interested in how the worlds leaders make decisions first hand, rather than through the tittle-tattle of the media, this is essential viewing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought, 25 Aug 2014
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Fascinating insight into his mind but left me wondering how he was able to justify his role in government so glibly. Worth watching to gain some enlightenment on the situation we now find ourselves in.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must See, 27 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Unknown Known [DVD] (DVD)
Excellent DVD, especially in combination with Errol Morris' other DVD: "Fog of War" (an interview with U.S. SecDef during the Cuba Crisis and Vietnam, Mr. Robert McNamara)
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Put Any Bias in your back pocket - but even if you have a bias you will enjoy this, 13 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Unknown Known [DVD] (DVD)
The film maker has said that Rumsfeld was unfailingly gracious during the filming but that he is not a great Rumsfeld fan. However, the great success of this film is that it exposes both the failings and the triumphs of Rumsfeld as a man and a politician. If you have a deep seated bias against Rumsfeld as the evil architect of the Iraq war there will be parts of this film that reinforce your convictions, but if you see Rumsfeld as one of a handful of men trying to deal with the aftermath of the catastrophic disaster of 9/11 this film also highlights Rumsfeld's positive qualities as a man and politician.

To many people if someone is responsible for something they don't like that makes them an evil or stupid person and a lot of people have vilified Rumsfeld over the Iraq war and mocked the Unknown Known comment he made which gives this film its very apt title - we think we know Rumsfeld but this film reveals a lot of unknowns about the man - at least to me. Put any biases aside and what emerges is a picture of a warm, brilliant and articulate man. Irrespective of whether you agree or disagree with Rumsfeld and his politics when you compare him with current politicians on both sides of the Atlantic most of them would be found wanting. There are a number of 'What If' moments in the film and one of the most fascinating is the fact that Rumsfeld was in the running to be Ronald Reagan's running mate. It's interesting to to speculate what might have happened if he had been chosen. If Rumsfeld had succeeded Reagan instead of Bush would he have been more inclined to take out Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War? Whilst Saddam was not responsible for 9/11 would eliminating him in the 90's have indirectly prevented 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003? Would Rumsfeld have won re-election in 1992 and thereby prevented the Clinton presidency? It's all speculation, but fascinating because irrespective of whether you like him or his politics Rumsfeld, who is now over 80, comes over as a competent, forceful and articulate politician.

When watching this film, which is enjoyable and worth watching several times over there are two key issues. Rumsfeld the man and the Iraq invasion. Whilst the two are seen as inevitably linked this film helps you consider the two issues in isolation, Rumsfeld the man is articulate, charming, forceful, imaginative, strategic and almost prescient in places. He comes over as having a rare strategic insight and awareness. With Iraq there are two key issues - should Iraq have been invaded to eliminate Saddam Hussein and was the peace lost by the immediate actions of a few senior Americans in Iraq after the war was won?

We look back on very few wars in a positive light, the exception being the second world war where there remains a sense of a necessary conflict to prevent the triumph of evil. But in retrospect the First World War, Vietnam, and Iraq all seem like conflicts that should have been avoided if wisdom had prevailed. As Rumsfeld points out in this film in retrospect everything is different and politicians have to make difficult choices when confronted with catastrophic events. Ultimately when confronted by totalitarian regimes democracies are left with three options - war, appeasement or containment. Containment is the least worst option, but becomes more problematic when the ubiquitous WMDs enter the frame.

This film is unlikely to change your view if you have a bias, but I watched this from a position of neutrality and afterwards and I now have a higher regard for Donald Rumsfeld. This is a brilliant film that i would recommend not only watching but watching several times over.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 3 Oct 2014
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C. J. Morrell - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unknown Known [DVD] (DVD)
A must see
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 17 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Unknown Known [DVD] (DVD)
v good
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The Unknown Known [DVD]
The Unknown Known [DVD] by Errol Morris (DVD - 2014)
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