Metascore
69

Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic 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: Godfrey Cheshire
    Apr 4, 2014
    88
    Amounts to a valuable if tremendously damning commentary on our current political culture.
  3. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Apr 3, 2014
    88
    “The Fog of War” (2003), about McNamara, won Morris a best documentary feature Oscar. The Unknown Known takes its title from a favorite phrase of Rumsfeld. It also accurately describes its subject, whose smiling inscrutability makes him consistently fascinating and often maddening.
  4. 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.
  5. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Apr 3, 2014
    80
    This film, which might have been called "The Fog of Words," isn't haunting, but dismaying. Mr. Rumsfeld is, as always, articulate, energetic and self-confident. Yet his words suggest a paradox — a restless mind with no discernible gift for self-reflection.
  6. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Apr 3, 2014
    80
    Intoxicating, and at times maddening, to watch.
  7. 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.
  8. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Apr 2, 2014
    80
    The fact that Morris applies the same basic methodology to The Unknown Known that he did to the The Fog Of War makes the contrast between the two men meaningful, and says something profound about Rumsfeld, too.
  9. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Mar 17, 2014
    80
    Dedicated to Morris’ champion, Roger Ebert, who would be proud, this is a provocative, revelatory and disturbing film.
  10. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Sep 17, 2013
    80
    Ranging over familiar material, but made vivid by Morris’ fecund associations and invigorating stylistic flourishes.
  11. Reviewed by: Bill Stamets
    Apr 17, 2014
    75
    Focusing on Rumsfeld’s 2001-06 stint at the Pentagon, Morris scrutinizes his rhetoric and rationale for attacking Iraq and Afghanistan. Tactics and costs take a back seat to semantics.
  12. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Apr 17, 2014
    75
    It's still worth seeing. This ambitious and powerful sphinx, a major force in a particular chunk of recent history, may not give away much. Watching and listening to how he doesn't give it away — that's the known known here.
  13. Reviewed by: Jeff Baker
    Apr 10, 2014
    75
    A fascinating and frustrating film.
  14. Reviewed by: Adam Nayman
    Apr 3, 2014
    75
    He’s a fox who’s used to being hounded by journalists, and as such he’s a very elusive subject for a documentary – even one by a filmmaker who’s renowned for getting his subjects to talk.
  15. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Apr 3, 2014
    75
    To extend the boxing analogy, it's as if Morris, after getting pummeled for 12 rounds, just taps Rumsfeld with his finger - and scores a knockout.
  16. 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.
  17. Reviewed by: Jake Cole
    Sep 17, 2013
    72
    The Fog of War is the superior film, but The Unknown Known is more unsettling.
  18. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Apr 3, 2014
    70
    Donald Rumsfeld, then, is almost the perfect foil or adversary to Morris, and part of the absurd magic of Morris’ extended interviews with Rumsfeld is that they almost never feel adversarial.
  19. 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.
  20. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Apr 2, 2014
    67
    To take the playfully convoluted, semi-nonsensical aggression of Rumsfeld's language and make it the whole point of a movie is to fall into the trap of mistaking the spin for the story.
  21. Reviewed by: Mike D'Angelo
    Dec 11, 2013
    67
    Tackling another secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in The Unknown Known, Morris has finally met his match. The film is illuminating only in its utter lack of illumination — for looking deep into the eyes of someone incapable of letting his guard down and finding, predictably, nothing whatsoever.
  22. 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.
  23. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Apr 2, 2014
    63
    Morris is likely to disappoint liberals in The Unknown Known by failing to take down an apparently weak target.
  24. Reviewed by: Jonathan Kiefer
    Apr 1, 2014
    60
    Rumsfeld's impenetrability makes him fascinating, but only to a point.
  25. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Mar 26, 2014
    60
    Morris's new subject looks relaxed and comfortable as ever lobbing out the same old evasions. He probably loves the attention from the Oscar-winning director.
  26. 50
    It's hard to know whom to blame for this futile exercise: Morris or Rumsfeld.
  27. Reviewed by: Steve Macfarlane
    Mar 31, 2014
    50
    Viewers' tolerance for Errol Morris's apparent sheepishness will hinge on their prior appreciation of the filmmaker's investigative acumen.
  28. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Sep 17, 2013
    50
    An unsuccessful attempt to get inside the head, under the skin or through the looking glass of Bush administration Secretary of Defense and Iraq War proponent Donald Rumsfeld.
  29. Reviewed by: Oliver Lyttelton
    Sep 17, 2013
    50
    From a procedural perspective, the film is an insightful look into the life of a Secretary Of Defense, but as an exploration into how the war in Iraq was allowed to happen, it’s much, much less satisfying
  30. 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.
User Score
6.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 8 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 3
  2. Negative: 1 out of 3
  1. 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.
    Full Review »
  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.
    Full Review »
  3. 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?
    Full Review »