Perhaps I need to see Errol Morris‘s The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld once or twice more, but my initial impression was one of muted fascination and at the same time vague disappointment. I feel I know Rumsfeld pretty well from his innumerable interviews and press conferences during the Bush years so I went in wanting to know him a little better. I’m not sure that I got that from Morris’s film, although I was certainly engaged start to finish.
The doc is an examination of who and what Rumsfeld is by way of his “snowflakes” — i.e., thousands of memos he dictated over the decades. But when one of the flakes exposes some chink in the armor, Rumsfeld shrugs and grins and throws up his hands and spins it around in his usual way.
For me the most interesting aspect was the straight biographical stuff.
Here’s what I texted to a friend last night: “Efficient, engaging, chilly, a bit frustrating. The obvious similarity to The Fog of War makes it feel deja vu-ish, but that 2004 Oscar winner was a haunting cautionary fable that stayed with you. And it was more emotional than the Rumsfeld doc, or for me it was. The Unknown Known boils down to being an exercise in the study of denial and spin and revelation and doublespeak. Perhaps the man is impenetrable. I know there’s no catharsis in the film. It’s a good intelligent work that didn’t knock my boots off.”