"The German documentary Under Control depicts a world where every precaution requires a set of additional precautions," writes Benjamin Mercer in the L. "In detailing the impossibly elaborate (but still not infallible) safety measures put in place in the shadow of Germany and Austria's atomic cooling towers — and in its slow pans of the plants' mechanical daily operations — Volker Sattel's superlative film highlights the permanent lockdown at several nuclear colonies."
"There's something truly terrifying about elaborate systems of precaution," writes Eric Hynes in Time Out New York. "Danger lurks in the shadows of safety…. In lieu of a traditional narrative arc and talking-head explication — there are, in fact, few words spoken throughout the film — Sattel constructs a tone poem via impeccably composed pictures that toe the line between beauty and banality, revelation and tedium."
Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant: "The film's mechanical dreaminess recalls the work of unsubtle, sci-fi auteurs (the crest of Kubrick's hard-on for the geometrically spacey shows in the nearly erotic pans over the massive, concentric design of the various towers and their entrails), but its planate aesthetic and no-nonsense monologue have more in common with poetic if unemotional renderings of hot-button issues (cf. Gus Van Sant's Elephant)."
In the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis finds that "moments of surreal levity — like the incongruously festive throng of employees in banana-yellow underwear and cobalt-blue bathrobes — are more than welcome as we marvel at man's rational efforts to harness the irrational. Capturing morning meetings and radiation monitoring, risk management and waste treatment with the same even gaze, Mr Sattel is not above mischievous memory tweaking: no actual Silkwood shower shatters the film's serenity, but we do glimpse the cylindrical pods where we can imagine one taking place."
For Nick Pinkerton, writing in the Voice, Under Control "settles into a certain lulling monotony, wandering a wilderness of wires, cooling towers, and a thousand other inscrutable devices, but it is a monotony with an undertone of menace."
At Anthology Film Archives in New York through December 11. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.