Sicko (Michael Moore, 2007)
Michael Moore, ever the provocateur, defines his documentaries with stunts that hammer his agenda with blunt, questionable yet entertaining spectacle. In Bowling for Columbine (2002), Moore enters the mansion of Charlton Heston to interrogate the celebrity of his gun-loving ways, turning his mood from cordiality to outright coldness. In Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), Moore goes around Capitol Hill parading the picture of a young soldier killed in Iraq, and interviewing lawmakers whether they'd allow their own sons and daughters to personally join the war in Iraq.
Moore's latest, Sicko, has a stunt that tops anything he's done before. He fills up three speedboats with ill Americans, transporting them from Florida to Guantanamo Bay to seek healthcare (which is provided for terrorists detained there). These sick Americans end up in Cuba where they are provided with proper medical attention and cheap pills; something that elicited tears, words of gratitude, and deep respect from Moore's subjects. The stunt may be considered manipulative or that it doesn't reveal the entire story or the methods Moore used to successfully drive his machinations. However, one can't deny that Moore, again, has successfully forwarded his agenda. There's no more denying the fact that despite Moore's love-him-or-hate-him personality and dubious filmmaking methods, he makes films that will make enough noise to matter.
Instead of rooting America's healthcare problem to specific politics, Moore goes for another method of attacking what America has become. True, Moore starts the film with Dubya speaking (in a presidential campaign, I suppose) about how healthcare is so important; then cutting to subjects relaying their specific healthcare woes (in escalating dramatics; beginning with a man who had to choose between the middle finger and the ring finger to a couple forced to bankruptcy by their medical troubles).
Moore also relays how Hillary Clinton, who championed socialized healthcare during her husband's administration, has become a paid puppet by the HMO's and pharmaceuticals when she became senator. All these are mere extraneous evidence for Moore since his attack this time varies. He doesn't go against the Bush administration directly by raising discovered anomalies or questionable legislation and presidential correspondence, as he did in Fahrenheit 9/11. This time, Moore gets more creative. He travels around the globe to stamp an ugly face on the American healthcare system; and in turn, shows how ugly America has become with its concern for rising economy and its citizenry's respective personal intents.
He travels to America's northern neighbor Canada, to Great Britain, to France, to show how America's privatized healthcare system is so wrong. He does seem to present those nations in utopian light but this is Moore, we really can't expect him to reveal full truths; he shows just enough to rouse anger, envy, and disgust. Surely, Moore's methods this time doesn't go for quasi-trials by presenting hard-hitting pieces of evidence and papertrails. Sicko goes for every logical fallacy in the book, but that's what makes it a far more satisfactory pic. While pushing for an agenda, Moore also pushes for the melodrama, the reality, and the absurdist comedy of these different stories of healthcare woes (including one by Moore's so-called greatest critic who becomes a recipient of the documentary filmmaker's charity --- the question of sincerity lingers, but it still shows how America's healthcare is an outright sham).
Sicko may be Moore's most important and best-made documentary to date. Unlike his previous works which I thought polarized viewers because of its highly political content, Sicko should unite audiences since the topic fairly belongs to one that does not discern political sides, race, or nationality. If Moore's filmmaking and his capability of twisting the truth to attain his goals still bother you, his latest will absolutely draw numerous queries and moments of disbelief. As for me, I'm just glad Moore brought this topic up with the force of a speeding ten-wheeler truck; now let's see America's presidentiables dodge this issue.