The Unknown Known (Blu-ray)

July 9, 2014 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Religion and Politics are not only two topics that have little interest to me, but also topics that I actively avoid discussing with people. If someone begins to get on the subject with me I will usually find a way to walk away or just tell them that I don’t want to get into it. To be fair, I haven’t had to do this many times, but there have been a few occasions. Some people get really heated over such discussions as well, and I choose to stay neutral if at all possible. Donald Rumsfeld is the topic at hand in this documentary. He is interviewed and doesn’t seem to hold back when it comes to answering questions. Rumsfeld certainly had a lengthy career in politics, he served as Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush as well as Gerald Ford. I won’t list all his accomplishments, but he also worked for President Nixon.

It’s hard to think of anyone without the slightest interest in politics being interested in this feature. In terms of structure, it’s all over the place. There are various times the dates shift back and fourth and virtually every big even through history during Rumsfeld’s life is covered here. He discusses the phrase “The Unknown Known” as well as stating that everything seems amazing in retrospect. We’re basically watching interviews with Rumsfeld by the film’s Director, Errol Morris. There’s also archival footage as well. We’re eventually brought up to speed with Rumsfeld’s retiring. A lot of discussion is given to the attacks on 9/11. As mentioned, Rumsfeld doesn’t hold back. He’s very forthcoming in his answers and Morris eventually confronts Rumsfeld with several tough questions. Ultimately, I remain unmoved by what I saw. This sort of thing is either for you or it isn’t. There’s no middle ground here. You should have an idea what you’re getting into when sitting down to watch a film about Donald Rumsfeld. I can’t really see many actually wanting to own this or watching it more than once.

Video: How’s it look?

We get an AVC encoded (2.40:1 ratio) transfer that is solid. It should be noted that there’s quite a bit of archival photos and stock footage. Naturally, these bits don’t appear as sharp as the interview snippets with Rumsfeld, but that should be expected. I suppose one should have an idea of how Rumsfeld should look in HD throughout the majority of this running time. This transfer presents things well.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD track works as well as it should I suppose. There’s little to report here, actually. Rumsfeld is heard loud and clear with little issues. I really can’t recall the rear channels doing too much, but I don’t think they were expected to. There are some moments that show some older footage where things do become more active, but mostly this is a dialogue driven feature. I feel pleased with it as it serves the film as it should.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – Director Errol Morris provides a running track for the film.
  • A Conversation with Errol Morris – An 8 minute conversation providing some decent background notes.
  • Third Annual Report of the Secretaries of Defense – This is from 1989 and goes for just under an hour in length. A lot of ground is covered, but it may seem foreign for those uninterested in politics. Needless to say, there are quite a few heated moments, and those were kind of interesting to see.
  • Four-Part op-Ed “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld” – This offers 4 separate text pieces that can be scrolled through.
  • Previews

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