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Michael Moore's Sicko

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DOCUMENTARY filmmaker Michael Moore goes straight for the heart of the US health service and finds it to be in critical condition.

Sicko exposes some cold, harsh truths about the provision of medicine in one of the richest nations on Earth and attempts to shame it into healing itself. Unlike previous Moore documentaries Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, however, it employs fewer gimmicks.

Rather, the first half of proceedings is spent relaying some of the shocking case histories that were gathered after Moore posted a message on his website informing readers about the subject of his next film. Incredibly, he received a deluge of more than 25,000 emails in just the first week.

These included the story of a cardiac patient and his wife who were forced to move into their daughter’s home after insurance costs devastated them financially and a young woman who was charged for an ambulance ride because she couldn’t sign a consent form while unconscious.

The most cynical fact to emerge, however, is that insurance companies are virtually encouraged to find reasons not to provide the resources needed to give their clients the healthcare they need, a ploy that results in heartache and even death.

According to Moore’s statistics, 18,000 people die each year in America because they are uninsured and half of bankruptcies are caused by medical bills (three quarters of whom have medical insurance).

Having provided such damning evidence of the pharmaceutical companies’ failings, Moore then resorts to some grandstanding. And while this is always entertaining, it does tend to open him up to easy criticism from his opponents.

Field trips to England and France, for example, provide awfully rose-tinted views of their respective health services, while a trip to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in an attempt to provide free health care for New York’s 9/11 workers landed him in very hot water with the US authorities.

Nevertheless, it remains a shocking truth that terror suspects receive a higher standard of medical provision than the men and women who risked their lives during the Twin Towers rescue effort – and who continue to suffer. And given that his film is aimed solely at Americans, you can forgive him such indulgences as we’ve kind of learned to expect them from the filmmaker.

Sicko therefore passes scrutiny with a surprisingly clean bill of health to provide an absorbing, sometimes shocking, examination of a sickening US problem. If nothing else, it makes you appreciate the NHS a little more.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 53mins
UK DVD Release Date: January 7, 2008