The youthful Donald Rumsfeld had his first brush with fame as an amateur wrestler, grappling his way to the captaincy of the Princeton university team. At the age of 81 – accused of disastrous mismanagement of the war in Iraq and dumped by the Bush administration after the 2006 midterms – the old bamboozler remains a slippery customer. He has his feet on the mat but he’s not going down.
Errol Morris’s new documentary, nominated for the top prize at the Venice film festival, takes its title from an infamous speech in the run-up to invasion. Making the case for illusory weapons of mass destruction, the US defense secretary said that there are “things we do not know we don’t know”, a devastating bit of obfuscation that effectively justified going to war on a false prospectus. Time and again, Morris tries to pin him down on this point. Time and again, he gives a clenched smile and wriggles loose. The film winds up as a tense, frustrating stalemate.