Saturday, January 12, 2008

Review of the Movie Sicko by Shane Christensen

The other night I sat down to watch Michael Moore’s latest documentary SICKO, which takes a look at the American health care system and compares it to other socialized systems in France, Cuba, and right here in Canada.

It is a typical Moore production that mixes disturbing reality with doses of humour and American self-contemplation. But like a lot of Moore’s previous endeavours, he doesn’t hide his disgust at the state of affairs in his country in which too many times the average person gets the shaft from a cold and heartless system; usually the result of unbridled corporate greed.

He documents this with heart wrenching clarity at the beginning of the film as he introduces the audience to a once typical middle class couple that was living the American dream. They had a nice home and comfortable lifestyle, and raised a few kids along the way. But then they both got sick and ended up losing everything in the process of trying to stay alive, and are forced to move into a small room in their daughter’s home; hence even losing their dignity. And the most shocking thing was that this couple had health insurance!

And in my humble opinion, that is the beauty of this film. I was expecting to see a number of cases relating to poor and destitute Americans who could not afford private medical insurance and therefore suffered because of this. But Moore is a master at knowing how to get the maximum effect from his work and he gets a much bigger bang for the buck by documenting a number of cases of middle-class Americans that do have health insurance coverage, but end up getting swindled by heartless and manipulative insurance corporations that will stop at nothing to save a buck, even if it means that people have to die in the process.

And as is typical in all of his previous movies, Moore takes aim at a number of politicians from both parties that sell their constituents out to the highest bidder, as they line up behind a variety of corporations that are affiliated with, or make their millions from the American health care system. Even though I consider myself a realistic kind of guy, I was shocked by the number of elected officials from both parties that line up behind these corporations to do their bidding. All for the sake of generation campaign contributions.

The saddest and most ironic part of the movie deals with the cases of a group of individuals that worked at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks. While officially there were promises that any person who suffered illness as a result of the after-effects of working in this potentially hazardous environment would be looked after, the reality was that many people were abandoned and simply discarded as they failed to qualify for treatment due to a number of technicalities of one kind or another. So being the showman that he is, Moore charters a boat and sails from Florida to the American base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba with this group of heroes, to try to get the same state of the art medical care for them that the terrorists being housed at the facility get.

Of course there was no way that that was going to happen, but in a further display of irony, his group receives free medical treatment and medicine from the Cuban health care system. The same treatment that was denied at home because these patriotic men and women who gave so graciously to their country at one of it’s darkest moments, didn’t qualify for any number of reasons.

Another typical trait of Moore’s movies is his obvious respect for Canada and our way of doing things in a much more humane way than that in America. He quickly introduces you to a few individuals who receive treatment in our health care system; a system which gets a fair deal of negative press in certain circles over wait times for operations and treatment itself. But after Moore’s examination and comparison of the two different systems, you’re left with absolutely no doubt as to which is the better of the two.

But by the time he goes to France to explore their system, I was actually getting angered and irritated by the blatant disparity that exists between what Americans receive from their health care system as compared to a number of other countries. And I felt this way because there is a lot about America that I admire and respect, and it really bothers me to see innocent people exploited in the name of a dollar, especially when it doesn’t have to be that way. And Moore proves this clearly and graphically in SICKO, while still presenting us with a film that is entertaining and even humourous at times.

But it is also very sad, because it’s obvious that Moore is a proud American who is trying to bring about real and constructive change for the betterment of the American people and nation as a whole, because he believes in the ideals that his nation was founded upon and which propelled it to the stature of world leader. And he should be praised and commended for what he does because there is nothing un-American about that at all, even if he happens to offend many of his fellow citizens by exposing blatant flaws and inequities that exist in the U.S.A.

As a footnote, I’d like to offer my thanks to Swanktrendz editor Terry Lowe who steered this writer straight about some fundamentals of writing. I submitted an initial review that was written immediately after watching this film, and the anger and emotion was still very fresh and more than obvious in the original draft. And the end result was something more of a personal rant than that of a movie review and commentary. So a lesson has been learned; DON’T WRITE MAD! Or at least make sure it's a good read if you do!

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