Totally Under Control by Alex Gibney [8/10]

No one can doubt how fucked-up America’s response to Covid-19 has been and is, so it takes a special filmmaker to dramatize it with compelling flair. Prolific Alex Gibney does just that with “Totally Under Control.” Offering nearly a day-on-day step-through of the U.S. response since the start of this year, and culminating only weeks ago when Trump tested positive, the documentary was filmed under cover of stealth, and often with DIY interviewing cameras sent to interviewees. The cast of interview subjects is stellar, ranging from prominent whistleblowers right at the heart of things, to seasoned pandemic professionals, to journalists from the beat in America and South Korea. Gibney (and fellow director Ophelia Harutyunyan) possesses an uncanny knack of extracting just the right narrative tenor from each of the interviewees. Of course Trump himself, together with his entourage of venal incompetents, provides plenty of visual fodder. In a sense I did not need to watch this, but the thought that kept me going, beyond the storytelling expertise at work, was that Totally Under Control is likely to be a reference document for the next generation. And given how badly the U.S. situation has accelerated since October, I wonder if Gibney will come up with a Part Two. I hope so.

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