The Unknown Known (2013)

I like a good documentary, but there are few really good ones out there. Darwin comes to mind as a very good one, and I will hopefully find many others. This is one of the most interesting documentaries I've seen that profiles a single person - Donald Rumsfeld. The movie essentially covers his political career from when he became a congressman up to invading Iraq.

It seems astounding to me - and it was distracting through the entire movie - that he would sit down and do these interviews with a director, Errol Morris, who clearly has opposing political views. Donald acts at times like he's trying to explain something very complex to a child, occasionally confusing himself in the process. But, the larger impression I came away with was that Donald is very happy with his own cleverness; hubris was one of the causes of the Iraq war, and he still relies on it for the justifications now.

Donald talks about the thousands of memos that he issued during his time with the White House and he refers to them as "snowflakes" as they were just little bits of white in a blizzard of memos that he was sending. He never really acknowledges that there are inherent problems with that kind of management style or how he might have tried to avoid the inherent pitfalls - it never occurs to him that there may be a better way of communicating.

I found myself remembering when some of these things were happening, and I was thinking that he was wrong about some of the assertions that he was making (like the link that was made between Saddam Hussein and 9/11). The director did an excellent job of counterpointing these erroneous assertions with taped comments from the time. In fact, the director did a great job with graphics and effects to keep what might have been a drab lecture interesting and active.

Directing was great
Subject matter was interesting
Effects were just what was needed
Production quality was excellent



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