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The Unknown Known 2014

In The Unknown Known, Errol Morris offers a mesmerizing portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, an extraordinary American politician and one of the architects of the Iraq War.

Runtime:
1 hour, 38 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Errol Morris
Studio Dogwoof
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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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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A MUST see ! It subtly exposes this vain, ruthless, dishonest man who for many years headed up the USA's war machine. One cannot help but come to the conclusion that there are many more with the same dangerous characteristics in every USA Administration.
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Having previously made the brilliant Fog of War about Robert McNamara, American Defense Secretary during the Vietnam war, Errol Morris turned to another high profile controversial figure from the US, Donald Rumsfeld.

This time Morris doesn't quite achieve the same heights as he did in Fog of War. That earlier film made you feel he got under the skin of his subject and offered insight about who he really was. This time, it feels more like shadow boxing all the way through without Rumsfeld ever taken beyond the answers he was happy to give.

In that respect, it is rather like the earlier interviews David Frost did with Richard Nixon, but without the dramatic moments when, finally after repeated trying, Frost got Nixon to reveal more than he wished.

That said, the Front/Nixon and Fog of War yardsticks are very high ones to judge The Unknown Known by and there is plenty to enjoy in the shadow boxing, especially for the classic Morris style of interweaving images of his character at work in the past with his interview footage.

Plus for people who only know the 21st century version of Donald Rumsfeld, there is much of interest from his earlier career, including how he could have ended up as President of the USA.
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absolutely fascinating, bizarrely compelling. The extras with interviews and QandA with Erroll Morris are well worth watching too..
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"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!
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I found this quite disappointing compared for example to Morris's previous documentary on Robert McNamara. You get the sense that Rumsfeld loves a phrase and is a salesman as much as a politician but Morris doesn't get deep inside Rumsfeld to help us work out who this man is or indeed why he believed what he believed.
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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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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?
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