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  • Summary: A son's riveting look at a father whose life seemed straight out of a spy thriller, The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby uncovers the secret world of a legendary CIA spymaster. Told by William Colby’s son Carl, the story is at once a probing history of the CIA, a personal memoir of a family living in clandestine shadows, and an inquiry into the hard costs of a nation's most cloaked actions. From the beginning of his career as an OSS officer parachuting into Nazi-occupied Europe, William Colby rose through the ranks of "The Company," and soon was involved in covert operations in hot spots around the globe. He swayed elections against the Communists in Italy, oversaw the coup against President Diem in Saigon, and ran the controversial Phoenix Program in Vietnam, which sparked today's legacy of counter-insurgency. But after decades of obediently taking on the White House's toughest and dirtiest assignments, and rising to become Director of CIA, Colby defied the President. Braving intense controversy, he opened up to Congress some of the agency's darkest, most tightly held secrets and extra-legal operations. (First Run Features) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 11
  2. Negative: 0 out of 11
  1. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Jan 19, 2012
    88
    At once a deeply personal film and an important historical document, The Man Nobody Knew leaves us with an incomplete portrait of a man. Did Colby have a moral core? Did he know what was truth, and what was a lie? Did he sanction assassination plots? Did he love his family? Was he even capable of love?
  2. Reviewed by: Andy Webster
    Sep 22, 2011
    80
    Carl Colby's smart, fact-packed film The Man Nobody Knew operates on many levels, all riveting.
  3. Reviewed by: Frank Scheck
    Sep 24, 2011
    80
    Carl Colby's deeply felt exploration of his father's life and career is as emotionally, as it is historically, intriguing, even if the filmmaker ultimately admits that he's never quite able to get to the bottom of his subject's enigmatic personality.
  4. Reviewed by: Kalvin Henely
    Sep 23, 2011
    75
    At the same time that director Carl Colby probes into the true character of his mysterious father through an arsenal of interviews with those that knew him, he gives equal weight to the dark chapters of America's history that his father's life traversed.
  5. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Oct 13, 2011
    70
    The Man Nobody Knew is packed with knowledge of another sort. It amounts to an absorbing, sometimes appalling course in how U.S. foreign policy evolved and functioned following World War II.
  6. Reviewed by: Ronnie Scheib
    Sep 22, 2011
    70
    Oddly, the director's personal connection with his subject adds little warmth, filmmaker Carl proving nearly as unemotional as his deadpan dad.
  7. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    Dec 1, 2011
    50
    Even his wife barely knew him, recalling for her son the peculiarities of raising a family amid Daddy's cloak and dagger - and if she's baffled by his behavior, what hope is there for anyone else?

See all 11 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 2
  2. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Oct 15, 2011
    9
    Absolutely riveting. Anyone with even a mild interest in the Vietnam War and the controversial secretive career of spymaster William Colby should see this film. The cinematography and soundtrack are first rate. The movie covers a great deal of ground using an elegant, forceful narrative. What gives this documentary a true sense of personal drama is the way Carl Colby goes in search of his dad's true character. Perhaps the most interesting person we see and hear from is Colby's mother, who is as bewildered about her husband's inner self as anyone else. Donald Rumsfeld makes a chilling appearance. Other key players in Colby's life come off as more sympathetic and introspective. Collapse
  2. Nov 1, 2011
    5
    The only person who would have ever thought about making a film documentary of former CIA Director William Colby must be related to him. In fact, his son Carl Colby did just that. William Colby was a driven individual who lived during interesting times and ended up in a fascinating job; however, this does not increase his suitability to carry an entire documentary. Intercutting very intriguing historical film vignettes, nostalgic and archived pictures, and one-on-one interviews with some very famous and influential public servants from the last few decades, The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of my Father CIA Spymaster William Colby charts the course of Colbyâ Expand