Errol Morris’ 2003 documentary The Fog of War allowed former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to show some remorse for his actions regarding the Vietnam War.
Film critics were likely eager to see similar contrition from another Secretary of Defense in The Unknown Known. The new documentary features a long Q&A with Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush’s strategist during the Iraq War.
The film, in select theaters now, doesn’t feature Rumsfeld apologizing for his decisions. And the critics are not too happy about it.
Here’s The Daily Californian fretting over the results of Morris’ latest line of cinematic inquiry:
Though the film tries to bring Rumsfeld out of the shadows, he remains dodgy. This is partly the director’s fault. The method of inquiry — an interview — yielded much from Robert McNamara, whose remorse and confession compelled “The Fog of War.” Q&A, however, doesn’t work on Rumsfeld. If anything, the interview allows Rumsfeld to come out victorious.
The critic for The Christian Science Monitor is equally annoyed at the film for similar reasons:
Whether he is denying that the military ever waterboarded prisoners or insisting that the Bush administration never claimed Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11, Rumsfeld is eerily unflappable. Morris is too polite, or too something, to push back on Rumsfeld.
Vulture says up front what the mission of the film was mean to accomplish, and how it couldn’t make that a reality.
Advance word on Errol Morris’s Donald Rumsfeld doc The Unknown Known was that Morris failed to nail Rumsfeld, especially on Iraq. After seeing it, I ask, How do you nail Jell-O?