Review: Documentary 'Totally Under Control' a scientific yet stuffy attempt to explain how COVID-19 was so terribly mishandled
It didn't have to be this way.
That's the consensus from the scientific community when it comes to explaining COVID-19 and how an outbreak in China led to a global pandemic and a crippling economic disaster in the United States. In the new documentary, "Totally Under Control," we are given a thoughtful, meticulously-detailed account as to what happened and in what order, and it more than just points a finger at the Trump administration for its failures in handling the virus, as well as how it shaped information for the general public.
In the doc, we hear from scientists and from former administration personnel who were in the know. Partially, this is the problem with the film...scientists aren't usually known for creating excitement or for explaining things in just a few simplified words or phrases. Match that with the absolute saturation of coronavirus news that we are all exposed to on a daily basis, and "Totally Under Control" becomes a real bummer to sit through and has trouble resonating the way it probably should. Let me explain.
At the time of this writing, over 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. If you haven't yet been personally affected or know someone who has, you're increasingly becoming the minority. But whether or not you've actually had the virus or not, one thing can be agreed upon: It has affected us ALL. And whether or not you've tested positive, have had symptoms or have been able to avoid it thus far, there is no question that COVID-19 has really infected all of our lives, in terms of infiltrating our every thought and our every move, over the past 7 months.
What is not up for debate is the overriding importance of "Totally Under Control." But the over-saturation of COVID-related news makes this documentary feel like more of the same, and really in today's political climate, it's unlikely to sway the opinion of those who think that Trump botched the pandemic response, or those who feel like he's done a "great job." This movie clearly seems to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Trump's response was inadequate at best, ruinous at worst, but "the truth" seems to not be that important a measure these days.
When reviewing a documentary, it is often hard to get caught up in the importance of the subject...clearly there is no more important topic right now than coronavirus and how it's changed our country. But judging "Totally Under Control" as a film, it doesn't do that a good job of boiling down the sequence of events into bite-sized, entertaining chunks that are easily digestible for the audience. That in and of itself may say more about Americans than it does about this film, but - to quote the President - "it is what it is."
What you're left with is a doc that - at over 2-hours in length - takes its time to make its case, like perhaps a great lawyer might do when presenting his case to a jury. But sometimes, the more flashy the lawyer, the cleared the message is sent. "Totally Under Control" could have benefited by being made a bit tighter, and perhaps including a few talking heads that could relate a bit more to those who are watching the film.
In other words, there is nothing wrong with the message of "Totally Under Control." It's more an issue of the messenger.
Run Time: 2 hours 3 minutes.
"Totally Under Control" is available on streaming platforms now.
Looking for a specific movie or review?