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Totally Under Control takes an in-depth look at how U.S. handled the COVID-19 outbreak during the early months of the pandemic.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

  • Totally Under Control
  • Directed by Alex Gibney, Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan
  • Available on demand

rating

3 out of 4 stars

Do you enjoy watching slow-motion footage of car crashes? Would you like to feel the anxious rush induced by two hours of doomscrolling without actually going on Twitter? Then buckle up for Totally Under Control, a totally enraging documentary about the Trump administration’s flaccid response to the coronavirus emergency in the U.S. It’s got all the hits you’ve known and loathed: “I don’t take responsibility at all.” “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.” “We have it totally under control.” Then it digs underneath those infamous facepalm beauties to explore how a model of government infrastructure was smashed upon the rocks of ideological purity and political malfeasance.

Those of us who haven’t been able to tear ourselves away from the news since January may not find much new in the first hour of this documentary from Alex Gibney, the director of such scathing works as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, who co-directs here with Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan. We already know all about the failed CDC-developed test; about the ignored Obama administration pandemic playbook; about political appointees such as Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary who stonewalled Congress on the scope of the problem and insisted the private market would work its magic.

But then along comes Michael Bowen, an executive at a mask manufacturer (and former Trump supporter) who describes his despair when no one in the administration heeded his warnings about an imminent shortage of PPE, and your outrage grows along with his. And then one after another plain-spoken career scientist outlines the roadblocks and mendacity they faced behind the scenes. By the time the whistleblower Max Kennedy Jr. shows up to reveal the incompetence of the White House COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force – really, just a bunch of volunteers with their own laptops and no experience in government procurement – you might be ready to throw a rock through your screen.

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Now it would be cool if Gibney could turn his attention to how the Canadian provinces messed up, too.

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