Combustible Celluloid
With: Anthony Fauci, Bono, George W. Bush, Bill Gates, Apoorva Mandavilli, Susan Rice, Francis Collins, Thomas Frieden, Laurie Garrett
Written by: n/a
Directed by: John Hoffman, Janet Tobias
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, some strong language, and some suggestive material
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/10/2021

Fauci (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ill Communication

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This excellent, timely National Geographic documentary manages to capture Dr. Anthony Fauci's jovial personality and his achievements, as well as his controversies, without being controversial itself.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, sits down for the camera to tell his story. He explains that his upbringing in Brooklyn and attending a Jesuit high school taught him to think of others, so he went into medicine.

In his career, he fought against AIDS, the Ebola virus, and COVID-19, as well as against many people that disagreed with him along the way. The documentary reveals a jovial, positive, deeply committed man whose persistence has won many battles. As for COVID-19, he asserts, definitively, "we're gonna get through this."

A standard "montage" pre-credits sequence in Fauci demonstrates just how controversial the famous scientist is, mainly along a political divide ("an enemy and a rock star all at once," as his daughter Jenny describes him). But as soon as he sits down, it's easy to see that he's a likable fellow, willing to open up and talk about anything. (He offers to speak about his volatile relationship with that anti-science president, Donald Trump, but the filmmakers equitably chose not to include whatever Fauci said, if anything, in the film.)

A good section of the movie is devoted to Fauci's fight against not only AIDS, but against AIDS activists, who felt Fauci didn't care or wasn't working fast enough on a cure. (When recalling one patient who lost his eyesight, Fauci can't help weeping.) But when the doctor gathered everyone together to talk, peace was achieved. "To include these voices makes for better science," he says at a 1990 conference.

The documentary goes into the familiar COVID-19 chapter — which made Fauci a household name — discussing both the speed at which a vaccine was made (Fauci is seen getting his shot) and, in a cool-headed manner, the hate that came from his detractors.

It also tells an inspirational story in which President George W. Bush learned about a deadly AIDS epidemic still raging in Uganda, and with Fauci's help, sent $15 billion in aid. (The former president appears here to tell the story.)

Fauci leaves off with a sense of the man's sheer energy, and even humility. He hopes that, when all is said and done, people will think of him, "Hey! That guy was pretty good."

Movies Unlimtied