Made through innovative means, featuring interviewees on multiple continents and completed one day before Donald Trump reported testing positive for COVID-19, Totally Under Control is thus far the definitive cinematic chronicle of the coronavirus pandemic’s first year.
Prolific documentarian and corruption-exposer Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), working with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, has crafted a slick, nimble and authoritative film on the Trump administration’s repeated failures to heed the advice of experts, and lays out the case in such clear, convincing fashion that, after viewing it, a second term for the sitting U.S. president seems inconceivable.
The trio of collaborators utilize a wide breadth of archival and original footage and — thanks to an invention called the “COVID cam,” which allows for remote filmed discussions — compelling testimony from public health officials whose efforts to contain the virus’s spread early on were squelched for various maddening reasons.
Few, if any, revelations will be news to viewers who’ve been paying even minimal attention in 2020, but there’s nevertheless significant power in the film’s chronological, seemingly comprehensive presentation of global events of the past 10 months.
However, after nearly two hours of carefully conceived buildup, it’s a bit of a shock when Totally Under Control comes to its end with a sense of having much more ground to cover. Whether that incomplete feeling is a result of the filmmakers rushing to get their documentary on screens before the Nov. 3 election and/or an inherent downside of covering a topic that’s far from resolved — the mere desire to experience another half hour or more of humanity’s recent plight under their guidance is a testament to the film’s effectiveness.
Available to rent via grailmoviehouse.com