Screenwriter: Michael Moore
Starring: Michael Moore
Running time: 113 mins
Oh Michael Moore, it felt like nobody uncovers the grim reality of social injustice and political malevolence better than you. We worshipped you and your baseball cap as bastions of decency amidst a myriad of vipers, exposing the cold, dead hands behind the National Rifle Association in Bowling for Columbine. We laughed and shuddered as the duo of Dubya and Dick were shamed in Fahrenheit 911. We waited eagerly across the pond for your latest cinematic endeavour Sicko, destined to slice through the inequality and disgracefulness behind America's woeful healthcare record for the impoverished. Then the trust you built up all crumbled to dust when you set foot in our own backyard…
The pivotal turning point arrives when Moore sets foot in London to demonstrate what a wonderfully lavish and flawless National Health Service we have. Given that Sicko is primarily a film geared towards Americans, he uses the NHS as a shining example of the free healthcare they are missing out on, strolling down a particularly plush and near-deserted hospital and chatting to a well-paid doctor who cannot stop beaming.
The grim reality of the matter – shamefully ignored by Moore – is that the cash-strapped NHS is in total crisis, with superbugs gestating in the wards, huge waiting lists, massive medical blunders ending lives, junior doctors and nurses being woefully overworked and underpaid, and a critical lack of simple beds meaning the seriously ill can be shunted off into a random corridor as their life ebbs away. Purely on the basis of Moore's presentation, you'd half expect every new patient to receive a personal butler and gold-plated chamber pot. So how can we give that much credence to his depiction of American healthcare?
Until his foray onto the English wards Moore, builds up a convincing argument against the United States government and the unethical healthcare firms who refuse to pay for life-saving treatments to save a few pennies. The film begins by focusing on a variety of subjects, both young and old, who have been messed up by the system. With a dose of macabre humour to the proceedings, we learn that one woman was refused reimbursement after not pre-authorising the call out of an ambulance following an emergency.
But all this, alongside some choice archive footage of various American politicians making asses of themselves and seething at the 'socialised menace' of free healthcare, all counts for nothing on retrospect. How much was the truth being bent here, just like the ridiculously blinkered and downright ignorant use of the NHS to support the argument?
Soon we realise that Sicko hinges not on what Michael Moore is uncovering, but on what he’s hiding. This is a real shame as he’s a talented documentary maker who can cut together footage succinctly and keep us entertained whilst hammering home some often harrowing information. But when adopting such a biased angle towards certain subject matter - the NHS in this case - our trust is lost.
Not even the film’s finale of a trip to Guantanamo Bay for a group of Americans bidding to receive better healthcare within the prison camp can salvage proceedings. It all comes across more as exploitation than emotional. There's also time for Moore's ego to swell up more than Leslie Ash's lips as he finds time to surf the internet and looks at an anti-Michael Moore website.
Gimme Moore? After Sicko, the prospect seems rather sickening.