Totally Under Control
Clear, coolheaded documentary about start of COVID-19.
Based on 2 reviews
No reviews yet.Add your rating
Common Sense is a nonprofit organization. Your purchase helps us remain independent and ad-free.
Totally Under Control
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Totally Under Control is Alex Gibney's documentary about the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic and the argued failure of the Trump administration to take the necessary steps to combat it. The film is coolheaded, clear, and straightforward, as well as up-front about the safety measures the filmmakers took to protect their interviewees. The documentary may get dated fairly quickly thanks to the subject matter, but it's essential for the moment in which it arrives. Expect to hear brief use of "motherf----r" and a few uses of "s--t" (or "bulls--t") and "my God." There's also violent news footage of angry people swearing and coughing on other people and upsetting footage from Trump rallies.
Revealing Docu- Very Timely
Report this review
Politics at it's finest....
Report this review
What's the Story?
In TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL, documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney covers the U.S. timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, starting with the first case discovered in the United States in Seattle in January 2020. Under safe conditions, using sheets of plastic and special cameras, the filmmakers interview several public health officials, who help uncover the details of just what went wrong, when, and how. But all of it, the film argues, is compounded by the Trump administration, which at every turn refused to take the disease seriously.
Is It Any Good?
As he has done so effectively many times before, Gibney takes a hard, clear, coolheaded look at government corruption -- and, in this case, shocking ineptitude and negligence, too. Totally Under Control -- the title taken from a misleading statement made by President Donald Trump -- is a fine work of journalism, even going behind the scenes a little to show how the movie itself was made safely during the pandemic. We can see layers of plastic surrounding special cameras, designed so that interviewees can speak, safely and unmasked, directly to the camera -- and to viewers.
Speaking with more than a dozen professionals, Gibney and co-directors Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger piece together a U.S. timeline and explain it with more clarity than most day-to-day news reports have had time for. For example, the CDC's faulty test kits are analyzed more fully, and it turns out that the error could have been easily corrected if the emergency had been taken more seriously. But Totally Under Control also looks at the Trump administration, whose virus task force consisted mainly of people with no expertise on the subject ("loyalty was more important than knowledge") and who consistently downplayed the virus's danger. All in all, while the documentary may get dated very quickly, it serves as an important testament for the moment in which it arrives.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Totally Under Control's violence, seen mostly in the form of news footage. Why do you think some people get so angry at others during the pandemic?
Could any of the public health officials interviewed be considered role models? Why, or why not?
Do you think it was difficult to convince those in charge in the United States that the pandemic was a serious matter? Why, or why not?
What did you learn from the movie that you didn't already know from the news or from your friends and family members?
- On DVD or streaming: October 13, 2020
- Cast: Tom Frieden, Max Kennedy, Eva Lee
- Directors: Alex Gibney, Suzanne Hillinger, Ophelia Harutyunyan
- Studio: Neon
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump
Docu diagnoses #45 with malignant narcissism.
Compelling documentary about the ACLU and its attorneys.
Moore's subjective, serious docu is cautionary, urgent.
The Way I See It
Hopeful, lovely docu on former White House shutterbug.
All-star virus thriller is intense, uncompromising.
For kids who love documentaries
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate