Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger‘s Totally Under Control (Neon, 10.13 on demand, 10.20 on Hulu) is a smart, swiftly paced, well-organized exploration of how Donald Trump singhandedly managed to make the Covid-19 pandemic worse…make that much worse than it needed to be.
If you’ve been closely following this forehead-slapping bureaucratic farce since last February (as I have) there’s nothing exactly “new” in this 123-minute doc. But it does offer a satisfying condensation or re-review, if you will. With a lot of frank and informative talking-head commentary.
Every stupid, blind, oblivious, wrongheaded move that Trump and his executive branch flunkies made over the last eight months or so is covered. Trump’s endless lies and denials and fantasy evasions, the “lost” five-week period (late January ’20 to early March ’20) when the virus might’ve been carefully managed and at least minimized to some extent but wasn’t, ignoring the passed-along Obama playbook on dealing with a pandemic, the failure to mass-produce masks in the early stages, the lack of a coordinated federal testing program, etc.
Not to mention the hydroxychloroquine hoax, Trump’s macho aversion to wearing masks, the “liberate the states” bullshit in May-June, the failure to follow scientific protocols, disagreeing with Dr. Fauci, etc.
Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it, Trump did it. Really. “It’s a Democratic hoax”, what do the scientists know?, possible Chlorox injections, America needs to get back to work, Covid “will dissipate with the heat” and will probably disappear “like a miracle,” etc.
Key narration line: “Ignoring expert advice became an act of patriotism.”
Trump became infected a day or so after Gibney’s film wrapped, so “don’t be afraid of Covid…don’t let it dominate your life” didn’t make the cut. But Trump’s remarks to Bob Woodward last February did: “It goes through the air…that’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things, right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
The Trumpies really could have gotten a handle on the virus early on (February) if Trump wasn’t so afraid of spooking the stock market…if they’d just appealed to everyone’s good sense and marshalled federal resources and called for tough measures early on. Like South Korea and New Zealand did, and like Italy eventually did last summer after that early scare. What a mess, what a disaster.