Totally Under Control
by George Wolf
Totally Under Control is arriving at a complicated time, making a case that exists in a contrasting space.
The film eviscerates Donald Trump’s administration mere weeks from Election Day, yet it’s presentation is miles away from inflammatory. It’s timely enough to feature a tail-end acknowledgment of Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis, but feeling more outdated with each day’s increasing infection numbers.
Directors Suzanne Hillinger, Ophelia Harutyunyan and the Oscar-winning Alex Gibney present a devastating case against the government’s handling of the pandemic. From the first documented U.S. case (Jan. 20th, Washington state), the response has been fought with brazen dishonesty, stupefying incompetence, and a firm insistence on politics Trumping science.
Apparently filmed in secrecy with the aid of a portable “covid cam” to avoid in person interviews, the film unveils its step-by-step timeline with a measured and confident tone. Utilizing a series of whistleblowers, graphs, stats and archival footage, Gibney, Harutyunyan and Hillinger earnestly deconstruct the folly of treating a country like a business.
And though Trump is certainly an understood subject, the finger-pointing is never belabored. Indeed, a flow chart of malfeasance sporting this many lackeys and sycophants would usually conclude a conspiracy, but by then it’s clear that’s not among this film’s objectives.
Sadly, this crisis is probably a long way from being over. But when the history is finally written, the most nagging question will be “How in the hell did this happen in America?”
And there will be no better time for Totally Under Control.