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The Unknown Known 2014 PG-13 CC

(185) IMDb 7/10
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Academy Award winner Errol Morris, using declassified memos, guides the notorious Don Rumsfeld through a historical and provocative discussion examining his career, philosophy and complex legacy.

Donald Rumsfeld
1 hour, 42 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Errol Morris
Starring Donald Rumsfeld
Studio Radius
MPAA rating PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 48 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

116 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Richard G. Eddy on April 7, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
Errol Morris deserves 5 stars for this profile of a person who, when faced with his clear contradictions as US Secretary of Defense, can only offer a sardonic, toothy grin, time after time. Rumsfeld was the sub-genius at the foundation of US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His hubris, aching self-importance, and fascination with his own circular thinking led to the deaths of thousands of American military personnel and Iraqi and Afghani citizens. If he is unrepentant, it seems to me, it is only because he lacks the honesty to face the facts and consequences of his behaviors. His interactions with the filmmaker are often reminiscent of an adolescent arguing that it wasn't really he who dented the fender of the family automobile. Instead of being ingratiating, his rictus is more suggestive of the grimace of a ghoul, riding as far as he could on the dead and wounded. His tenure as Defense Secretary should not be forgotten, for his is a sharp example of how not to do things and how not to comport oneself.
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39 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 5, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video
"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 movie composer Danny Elfman provides a subtle but very nice soundtrack to the movie.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Martin D. Kimzey on April 21, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
It is clear that the film maker wanted to paint an image of Rumsfeld as a Machiavellian menace. Mr. Rumsfeld is certainly not perfect and made mistakes. However, I think he had (and has) a deeper understanding of the problems related to the defense of our country than most. I don't see his refusal to answer certain questions in press conferences as immoral. Quite the contrary, answering a good number of those questions would have been irresponsible and would have put lives at risk. I am not someone who sees Jullian Assange (Wikileaks) or Edward Snowden (NSA) as heroic. I have never really considered the unauthorized transport of classified documents to Moscow as a patriotic act done in the best interest of the nation. I don't think Rumsfeld would have handled the issues with Condoleezza Rice the way he did unless there was a serious problem. The Abu Ghraib tortures and prisoner abuse was tragic. The actions of the guards responsible for the reprehensible treatment of the prisoners were despicable. Mr. Rumsfeld attempted to resign over this (twice). It is silly and unfounded to believe that Rumsfeld implied or ordered prisoners to be treated this way at Abu Ghraib.

The world that Mr. Rumsfeld worked in for years is one where far reaching decisions that affected the lives of many had to be made quickly and without all of the facts. The film is good and worth watching - but suffers under the direction of an armchair historian.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful By D. Brown on April 26, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
Clearly, Donald Rumsfeld is an easy target and the Iraq War was far from a tidy affair. This doc attempts to provide some exposition into the thoughts, strategy and planning that went into the Iraq War and into Rumsfeld's overall career as a two-time Secretary of Defense. I appreciate such an effort and I find the subject matter very interesting, given that I spent 27 months in Iraq as a US Army soldier. However, I found the doc to be fairly one-dimensional and relatively uninteresting.

I remain interested in the fundamental objectives behind the Iraq War, such as oil resources, counter-terrorism, neo-imperialism, etc, but this doc did not provide any new commentary. Instead, this presentation seemed more interested in the semantic nuances of Rumsfeld's numerous "snowflake" memos to his Department of Defense staff; interesting, but not really substantial. These commentaries are interesting, but they didn't, in and of themselves, offer the cutting insight I had hoped for.

Overall, I finished the doc with a continued interest in the "who, what, when, where, why and how" and I actually felt more sympathetic to Rumsfeld himself than I had before. Is he a camera-ready statesman? No. Is he a debonair politician? No. However, I found his responses to be relatively honest, elucidating and accurate. Overall, I would give this doc mediocre ratings at best. I appreciate the effort, but I think Morris was bogged down in political bias and therefore, less focused on objective fact than on pursuing his preconceived ideas. Watch this only if you're interested in a bit of biographical background and some superficial insight into the Iraq War.
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