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Review: Sicko

By Isabel Sutton**Number three in Michael Moore’s repertoire of bomb-shell big-screen documentaries has arrived and it’s as predictable as can be.  The target this time is the scandal of the American health service – a subject which has been on Moore’s hit list since 1999, and explains the film’s disconcerting title Sicko.  Just like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, Sicko is coming out at exactly the right time: mounting concerns over a privately-run health service have finally come to a head.  Profit-making insurance companies, who maltreat their patients, are going to come under severe pressure as soon as a Democrat reaches the White House.  Dissatisfaction is growing amongst ordinary Americans: Moore received over 25,000 e-mails from people with nightmare health care tales to tell, prior to the making of the film.  Once again Moore has seized the perfect moment.  His documentary Sicko will feed off current complaint and stir his audiences’ rage: no wonder drug companies sent round ‘Moore alerts’ when the documentary went into production.Now Sicko has hit cinemas and nothing seems to have changed in Moore’s provocative style of delivery.  He’s as fat and simplistic as ever.  I’m not saying I disagree with Moore at foundation: he’s absolutely right that the US health service needs some serious attention.  What narks me is the way Moore denudes his subjects of all credibility by the cras methods he uses to expose them.  This will be immediately obvious to any British audience when they see Moore’s presentation of the NHS.  First we hear Tony Benn speak with great persuasiveness about the excellent principles of our system.  Less convincingly, we are then shown an interview with a London GP who speaks with glowing enthusiasm about the free-for-all Paradise world that is the NHS.  He even represents the fiasco over recent GP salary changes as an ideal, socialised version of the American system, whereby the service is public but doctors are given the incentive to improve patient care.  No word at all on the uproar that has ensued since its introduction.  Moore gazes with astonished eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap as the GP speaks: surely this man can’t be earning a decent wage?  To answer this question, we’re off to the doctor’s house where dinner guests have just arrived and are drinking glasses of wine.  Moore’s point is apparently proven: the NHS is a ‘free’ system which has everyone, including the GPs, living in physical health and material comfort all the time.  By this point my fellow film critics were chuckling in wry amusement.Why does Moore have to smooth over every obstacle – every opposing thought – when his argument can already stand up on its own feet?  The distortions are visible for all to see.  Well, perhaps I’m missing part of the point: Moore isn’t in the business of traditional documentaries.  He’s a stunt man with a point to prove, and he finishes the film doing what he does best.  No one can deny that it’s quite a feet to take his  starring patients – three volunteer workers at the scene of 9/11 who disgracefully have still gone untreated – all the way to Cuba for a proper check-up, all absolutely free.  I had to take my hat off to him.

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