The closest thing to a Nuremberg trial that the war criminals Richard Nixon and his henchman Don “Corleone” Rumsfeld faced have been mass media interviews by the recently deceased David Frost and now by Errol Morris. In The Unknown Known, the documentarian focuses his “Interrotron” device on Rummy, as Morris follows his career in Washington (but not so much in the private sector) and seeks to hold him accountable for torture, invading Iraq on the false pretext of nonexistent WMDs and so on, as he earlier did regarding another ex-Defense Secretary, Robert “Mac the Knife” McNamara, in 2003’s Oscar winning The Fog of War.
The skillful Morris is at his best when he uses cinematic metaphors to express Rumsfeld’s lies, such as overlaying two soundtracks so that the Pentagon chief “doubletalks.” Morris’ questions aren’t always as penetrating as they could have been, which makes one wonder if the director cut a deal with the image conscious Rumsfeld in order to get him to appear before the Interrotron?
Morris was a no show at the scheduled Q&A during the AFI “Special Screening,” but in addition to asking him about any possible special agreements with his slippery interview subject, I would like to know why Rumsfeld is smirking throughout much of the film. Is it because he’s pleased as punch that he escaped Mussolini’s fate, which Rummy so richly deserves for his crimes against humanity?
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The new book co-authored by L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell, “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”, published by Honolulu’s Mutual Publishing, drops Nov. 25.