• Nate Adams

Review: 'Totally Under Control' confirms and broadens Trump admin's disastrous response to Covid-19


Courtesy of NEON

“This is their new hoax”


“It’s totally under control”


“It will just go away”


These are all phrases touted by our commander-in-chief who is front and center in the new horrific documentary “Totally Under Control” which went into production, secretly, last April. This scathing indictment of how Donald Trump’s administration failed to corner this virus is both a shocking revelation and confirmation of what most Americans know. They blew it.


Obviously, nobody is blaming Donald Trump for COVID and when he contracted the virus last week, I hoped for a speedy recovery. But one can’t help to point out the irony in a president who consistently downplayed the virus, held massive rallies with minimal social distancing, saying on tape he purposely hid the risks of COVID from the American people so to not cause panic, contracting the very thing he says “hardly affects anyone.”


“Totally Under Control” sees Oscar winning documentarian Alex Gibney – along with filmmakers Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan – urgently rushing to get this doc out to a wide audience prior to the election. They’ve done a remarkable job at filtering out the nonsense and presenting hard facts on the subject, narrowing the focus of two countries coming to terms with battling the pandemic. The spotlight shines on U.S. and South Korea, both of which registered their first COVID related death on January 20th, 2020.


You’ll be baffled at how quickly South Korea was able to capitalize on laws passed in 2016 that basically gave public health officials free reign during a pandemic. Meaning they developed one of the most comprehensive contact tracing models and were able to test hundreds of thousands of citizens and kept their death toll – in a population of 52 million – below 500. Meanwhile, the United States is approaching 200k with no end in sight, despite flagrant claims that a vaccine is coming soon.


“Totally Under Control” switches between the two countries, mainly during the early months when South Korea wasted no time addressing the virus and protecting its citizens. Trump can tout how he put travel restrictions on China but A) It came after US citizens had already tested positive and B) It was only a partial ban. Yes, the Obama administration didn’t leave that many N95 masks in the stockpile, but Trump had three years to replenish the supplies and instead, in January no less, shipped what precious inventory we had overseas. Something that would bite them in the ass as the void of personal protective equipment left frontline workers exposed and vulnerable.


There are insightful and unbelievable interviews with numerous health experts, doctors, journalists, and whistleblowers who put their lives on the line to help people, all while Trump undermined the CDC, and his own appointed scientists whenever he could. It wasn’t a matter of science over opinion, Trump demanded loyalty and the instant a respected public health official sounded the alarm on the dangers of this virus, Trump fired them. What starts as a call to action for the American people, quickly turns into a chilling account of how our political leaders deemed their views on science more vital than medical professionals.


And the documentary is littered with plenty of credible interviewees to help carry the load of the picture. Chief among the bunch is Rick Bright, an advanced biomedical research executive for BARDA, who broke protocol and said early in the pandemic how inaction was going to lead to more deaths. He holds back tears recounting the day to day operations within the Trump administration, and their constant denial of what they would eventually call “The Invisible Enemy.”


Then you have Max Kennedy, an ambitious twenty-something volunteer who opted to join Jared Kushner’s ultimately ill-fated task force and tells how they were hung out to dry with minimal leadership in their hunt to track down masks and PPE equipment. Each volunteer was forced to sign an NDA, which is unprecedented when nobody had access to confidential information. New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear adds his commentary to the film, helping fill in the gaps as Trump consistently tried to paint a different picture of the pandemic, and you won’t be surprised to hear he didn’t like what COVID was doing to his reelection bid, often pushing to keep testing down because the numbers looked good compared to other countries.


“Totally Under Control” has been in a constant motion, practically rushing to the finish line as to be seen by a wide audience and its final end credit blurb stating: “One day after finishing this film, Donald Trump contracted COVID-19” couldn’t feel like a more appropriate button.


The reality of this situation is far more dire than what this documentary tells us and “Totally Under Control” is a must-see for any undecided voter, and those who want to formulate their own opinion on how Trump handled the pandemic. Sadly, the people that need to see this movie – the anti-maskers or Trump supporters – will denounce this as “Fake News!” or “Corrupt!” and probably just as quickly denounce me as a hack liberal. I’m sorry, but facts don’t care about your feelings.


Grade: A-


TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL will release on digital/on-demand Tuesday October 13th and debut on HULU October 20th 2020.