Canadian Reviews

Sicko Review

As one would expect, this movie comes with a warning to be mindful of the usual Michael Moore baggage: he distorts facts and figures, he often stages his "gotcha" moments, and is a dirty commie who hates America and wants to see every American die at the hands of Al-Qaeda......

With that out of the way, Sicko is nevertheless his least partisan movie to date. While Fahrenheit 9/11 was largely an anti-Bush polemic and Bowling for Columbine was too meandering and too contrived at times, this movie is much different for a number of reasons.

The main one being that health care in the US is much less of a partisan issue (though the solutions still are). Getting screwed by health insurance companies and HMO's is an experience that people of all political stripes have experienced in the US. And Moore does document some truly horrible injustices done upon decent, hard-working Americans. Like the woman whose husband died from leukaemia because the operation was deemed experimental even though his brother was a perfect donor match. Or the woman whose 18 month old child died en route to cheaper hospital her HMO preferred instead of the one that was closest for her and her infant with a fever of a 104. There several other examples Moore cites, each equally maddening and heart-wrenching at the same time.

It's when he goes abroad (and north) is when the movie begins to lag a bit. He travels to Canada, England, and France (in that order) to see how the health care systems work there. In doing so, he draws as big a difference as he can between either country's system and the US's all the while feigning incredulity. And while there are large contrasts to be sure, the picture painted is incredibly idealistic and rosy and makes virtually no mention of each system's shortcomings (except when used in a montage of right-wing fear-mongering about the dangers of "socialized" medicine).

And there are shortcomings in each and every system. We here in Canada are well aware of where our system is lacking and there are horror stories from all over Canada, England, and France to be had, none of which are addressed in the movie (though he has been asked about them in interviews and addresses them there).

Nevertheless there is one commonality among the places he visits and that is the mindset of the societies of Canada, Britain, and France. Namely, that, in a way, we are in this road of life together and should feel duty-bound to help one another and if universal heath-care is one way to go about that, then so be it.

But his main point he tries to make by idealizing the three countries health care systems, is largely to disprove the usual right-wing bluster that socialized medicine is the first step on the road to Communist tyranny and the costs of such as system are so exorbitantly high is impoverished by default. As a result we meet a doctor in London who drives an Audi and lives in a 3 storey house in Greeenwich and makes 85,000/ year and a French family where both parents work yet manage to travel the world. Again, this is likely an idealized picture that's being painted, but accurate to a point as well.

It's when Moore takes a bunch of 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba that the movie becomes its most controversial, and rightly so. First of all he and a flotilla of boats show up at Guantanamo Bay asking for the same world class and free health care the inmates there receive. It most definitely is a stunt but it's not even that good of one. What sort of reaction is he expecting? The Army to open the gates and treat these people? That would have been an interesting twist, but obviously doesn't happen.

After turning back from Gitmo. Moore and his menagerie decide to see what Cuba's health care system is like and this is where even I start to shake my head. Earlier in the movie, Moore shows clips of old Soviet era propaganda films sort of to make fun of some of the hysteria thrown about over the idea of socialized medicine, yet, when his group arrive at a Havana hospital we are treated to largely a modern re-enactment of those old Soviet films. We see a clean hospital with modern equipment and staffed by apparently only handsome young doctors who speak perfect English and pretty young nurses.

Nevertheless, the rescue workers do receive treatment and medications at a vastly reduced rate than they pay in the US. Again, this is most likely due to the active participation of the Cuban government (though how much involvement is unclear. If one goes by the assumption that Cuba operates like many other authoritarian regimes, Moore and co. likely had a government appointed minder tagging along at all times. Especially when the fire-fighters and EMT's visit a fire house in Havana where the firemen are all in crease-less uniforms and the company commander reads a statement of rescue worker solidarity that sounds as though it was written by a committee).

[I haven't seen an interview of his lately where Moore is asked about the role of the Cuban government in helping his time in Cuba and if anyone has, do PM me with a link and I will revise this review accordingly]

However, no matter how controversial this part of the movie is, there still is a point to be drawn from it as well. Chief among which is that Cuba, which has been under a 60 year long trade embargo and is wretchedly poor as a nation because of it, still manages to provide a level of health care to its citizens that would seem beyond its means.

In the end, Sicko is not so much about providing a detailed policy alternative to the American system of health care as Moore is not a policy wonk, nor will he ever be. Rather, the film is more of an emotional appeal to those who still deride universal health care and to show them that there is a different way of doing things and it's not so bad as you've been led to believe.


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Added: July 2nd 2007
Reviewer xerxes
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  1. Posted by xerxes
    2008-08-24 09:58:33
    my score:
    Perhaps you should re-read the first paragraph again...
  2. Posted by hudson111
    2008-01-02 15:20:03
    my score:
    Manufacturing Dissent was a documentary Made IN Canada, focusing on Micheal Moore and his shallow attempts to get his point across. This doc shows exactly what Moore is all about. His editing floor must be quite a mess from his chopping all the positive film and cut and pasting other parts to twist his victim into a villain. The Canadian documentary crew were snubbed by Moore several times, even being evicted from one of his speech appearances. CTV financed the documentary and it has been done in a very professional manner. He used to be my hero until I started reading about him, and the doc sealed my opinion on him. If you can get your hands on MANUFACTURING DISSENT it is a good watch.
    Below is a writeup which covers his non ethical tactics to slag an individual or company. Not much wonder he has a battalion of bodyguards around him.
  3. Posted by Scape
    2007-08-09 08:15:24
    my score:

    Very level headed critque.

  4. Posted by canucker
    2007-07-08 19:30:25
    my score:
    Great review.
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