TIFF 2013: The Unknown Known Review

The Unknown Known

The Unknown Known


Director: Errol Morris

When documentary guru Errol Morris sat down with Robert McNamara to discuss the Vietnam War, the result was the candidly confessional and Oscar-winning The Fog of War. That film offered cathartic closure on the black mark of American history with one of the key players admitting guilt and accepting blame. Now Morris has attempted the same trick with Donald Rumsfeld, who held McNamara’s position for the Bush administration. This time the result is more of a politically spun refusal to accept responsibility that’s drenched in jargon and filled with long answers that don’t really answer anything. However, the result is just as fascinating, if frustrating, and somehow appropriate given that it’s the same experience Rumsfeld offered the press throughout his time in office.

Morris guides Rumsfeld through his entire career, using stock footage, vintage news reports, and gorgeous montages to make the experience cinematic (all backed by Danny Elfman doing his best Philip Glass impression). Rumsfeld is a prickly interview subject, but an undeniably intriguing one. By the end, it feels like Rumsfeld actually believes his warped facts and spun truths. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism developed over the course of an eventful career or maybe just a foggy worldview. Either way, it’s clear why the Bush/Chaney gave him his job, even if it’s unclear why Rumsfeld would ever agree to be a part of this movie beyond ego and self-delusion. (Phil Brown)


Sunday, September 8, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 6:45pm

Tuesday, September 10, The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 9:00am

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