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Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics What's this?

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6.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 8 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: In The Unknown Known, Errol Morris offers a portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, one of the key architects of the Iraq War, and a larger-than-life character who provoked equal levels of fury and adulation from the American public. Rather than conducting a conventional interview, Morris has Rumsfeld perform and expound on his “snowflakes,” tens of thousands of memos (many never previously published) he composed as a congressman and as an advisor to four different presidents, twice as Secretary of Defense. These memos provide a window onto history—not history as it actually happened, but history as Rumsfeld wants us to see it. Morris makes plain that Rumsfeld’s “snowflakes”—whether intended to elucidate, rationalize, obfuscate, or control history—are contradicted by the facts. [RADiUS-TWC] Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 30
  2. Negative: 0 out of 30
  1. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Apr 1, 2014
    90
    The film is a cat-and-mouse game in which each player thinks he’s the cat, making it both thrilling and disconcerting to watch. It is also a nature documentary about behavior at the very top of the imperial food chain and a detective story about the search for a mystery that is hidden in plain sight.
  2. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Apr 2, 2014
    80
    It's hard to believe a story this serious can be told in such an involving way, but that is one of this expert documentarian's greatest gifts.
  3. 80
    The Unknown Known is a worthy addition to Morris’s body of work, an epic search that demonstrates the limits of language, the ease of sidestepping truth.
  4. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Sep 17, 2013
    75
    Over the course of 106 minutes, Rumsfeld's rambling assertions grow exhausting, particularly because Morris never manages to direct them toward a larger argument.
  5. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Apr 4, 2014
    67
    Although the movie goes way back into Rumsfeld’s career, it is the Iraq section that is the most noteworthy – and disappointing. Morris elicits virtually nothing revelatory from Rumsfeld.
  6. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Apr 3, 2014
    63
    Seemingly unable to engage in self-reflection, let alone self-criticism, Rumsfeld is given virtually full rein to control the narrative by Morris, who is far more interested in letting the audience dwell inside his subject’s strangely attenuated moral imagination, rather than challenge it.
  7. Reviewed by: Robbie Collin
    Sep 17, 2013
    40
    Morris gives it the old college try, but Rumsfeld is too smooth an operator to let anything slip.

See all 30 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 3
  2. Negative: 1 out of 3
  1. Apr 15, 2014
    10
    You should watch this movie to understand a great deal more about a generation of elderly white men clinging to power. I haven't had such a satisfying documentary experience since the two Gasland movies. It is fascinating to witness such a powerful figure as Rumsfeld, explain the motives of his actions. The twist and turns of logic this obviously extremely intelligent person takes, to obfuscate and to dodge questions. It seems this ability also works against himself.

    tl:dr - Movie is amazing, why are you not watching it already?
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  2. Apr 19, 2014
    5
    The Unknown Known is a documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense and one of the leading minds behind the Iraq war. Errol Morris does a fantastic job interviewing Rmsfeld. Questions that Morris asks Romsfeld and gives him enough time not only to respond, but also to think about his responses and express how he feels about them. Very often Romsfeld answers a question in a way that he think is smart and elegant then he reacts to his own response with a smug smile but his answers are more nicely worded sentences with no substantial meaning and significance.

    I'm not giving a high score to this movie because it does not reveal anything interesting about Romsfeld's career and the truth behind the war. The movie, however, shows how the course of Romsfeld's carrier could have been different and how it could make a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
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  3. Aug 23, 2014
    3
    I want to believe the underlying point of this documentary is to remind us that Donald Rumsfeld isn't going to say anything that goes beyond the mandate of his positions in government, and if that was the underlying point then this documentary did just that. The Unknown Known is exactly what was portrayed -- we already didn't know what Rumsfeld knows.

    That said, if you're looking for another Fog of War, this documentary is almost the complete opposite of it. Nothing is revealed on the part of Rumsfeld other than the Known Knowns.
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