FILM REVIEW: UNKNOWN KNOWN

“An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – the words of Donald Rumsfeld, then Defence Secretary to the George W Bush administration in his party’s defence of the WMD issue.

‘Unknown Known’ is an all attention and focus, Errol Morris documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, one of the most influential figures in shaping the last 40 or 50 years of U.S and indeed world politics.

I know I certainly had my own personal opinions of the man going into this film and to be honest, nothing has really changed having seen it except perhaps a little grudging respect that this most slippery of super-sharp, career politicians is and has been a master of what he has always done, putting a positive or at least palatable spin on the unpalatable; or should that be, making excuses for the inexcusable?

My own opinions aside (formed as much outside of Rumsfeld’s days as the Secretary of Defence  as within), how well does this ‘spotlight on one man’ documentary work as a film?

Well,  it’s cleverly put together in a mostly nonlinear fashion, using interview techniques that probe for answers without ever demanding them, instead attempting to allow Rumsfeld to fall into his own webs of spin, backed up by substantial film and television footage and indeed vast archives of memos and documents that Rumsfeld himself dictated over the entirety of his career. It’s an intriguing spectacle.

One shouldn’t fall into the trap of seeing this film as an attempt at one up-man-ship for the left over the right or Democrat over Republican in this case, for as Rumsfeld himself says (and I found myself in a rare moment of agreement), to loosely quote, “Barack Obama opposed every national security measure that George W Bush put in place in the wake of the Iraqi conflict, yet, to this day, not one of those policies has been overturned, so we must have been doing something right…”

Perhaps, or more likely it’s a prime example of both political sides being driven by one agenda politics, irrespective of what their illusory political leanings may appear to be.

That, I feel is far a far more likely scenario and maybe a lesson in there for those that choose to nit-pick at the minutiae of political policies ignoring the bigger and more obvious political picture.

Personally, I’d like to have seen some focus on the man’s heavy corporate, political leanings and affiliations; potentially as damning in many ways as the military-related subject matter, but maybe that’s for another day.

Not one to break any box office records this, but a fascinating glimpse nonetheless at a man who’s been up to his neck in the cloak and dagger, shady dealings of U.S and world politics for many a decade.

Draw your own conclusions. I have mine…

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