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‘The Unknown Known’ finds Donald Rumsfeld free of self-doubt

‘The Unknown Known’ finds Donald Rumsfeld free of self-doubt

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Film Critic

If you know anything about gifted documentarian Errol Morris — or about recent secretaries of Defense for that matter — comparing his new film, “The Unknown Known,” with his earlier work, 2003’s Oscar-winning “The Fog of War,” is all but inevitable. At least at first.

Both films are smartly constructed one-interview films featuring an 80-something former Defense secretary who spends considerable time talking about his role as the voice of one of the most unpopular wars of recent American history. But that’s where the similarities end and personal differences take over.

For if “Fog of War’s” Robert McNamara was shown to be troubled by decisions he was part of during Vietnam and earlier conflicts, then Donald Rumsfeld, the man in charge during the 2003 Iraq invasion, shows no such compunctions about his parallel position.

Energetically unrepentant and serenely free of self-doubt, Rumsfeld takes the concept of the grace of certainty to dizzying heights. Though Morris has said, “Unfortunately, after having spent 33 hours over the course of a year interviewing Mr. Rumsfeld, I fear I know less about the origins of the Iraq war than when I started,” the filmmaker has accomplished considerably more than he lets on.

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