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Sicko (2007)

The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/6/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/19/2007

In the past, when people would talk about controversial or even "dangerous" filmmakers, they were speaking of people like David Lynch, Paul Verhoeven, or David Cronenberg. Today, when we hear about a "dangerous" filmmaker, many Americans think of one person: Michael Moore. This outspoken man from Flint, Michigan makes documentaries in which he exposes the corruption and greed in American politics and big business. After examining General Motors, the Columbine shootings, and the attacks on the World Trade Center, Moore turns his attention to the United States healthcare system with his latest outing Sicko. The film shows Moore at the top of his game and presents a subject which will hit closer to home for most viewers than any of his previous works.

At the outset of Sicko, Michael Moore makes a very important distinction -- this film isn't about Americans who don't have health insurance, it's about those who do. Moore then goes on to explore the American healthcare system through the eyes of those who have medical insurance but either couldn't get the care that they needed, or entered financial ruin because their insurance company wouldn't cover the expenses. He interviews several individuals who have gone through this (sometimes losing loved ones in the process) and he also talks to former insurance company employees. Then, Moore takes us on a journey to see what the rest of the world is like. By visiting Canada, England, and France, Moore gives us a glance inside these countries which have socialized medicine. We learn that the citizens of these countries never have to pay for any medical services. Moore then visits Cuba to see what their system is like.

As with any Michael Moore film, Sicko is going to divide viewers on several levels. Ostensibly, the idea of receiving medical care without fear of denial or bankruptcy should be a universal theme. Anyone who's ever gotten into an argument with a medical insurance company over a claim will most likely find themselves enraged by this portion of the movie. And if someone in the audience has had someone close to them die due to interference by insurance, Sicko will send them through the roof. But, I'm sure that there will be viewers who have never experienced anything like this and the full effect may be lost on them. They will feel for those profiled in the movie, but it may not have a visceral response.

There will also be mixed feelings when Moore visits the foreign countries. For some, the most obvious question will be "Why doesn't America do that?" To convince us that each country isn't simply a fluke, Moore gets us several examples in each country of how socialized medicine works and the fact that citizens of those countries aren't worried by medical bills. He examines the systems to ensure that they are modern and that service is readily available. For some viewers, even those who don't doubt Moore, another question will arise -- "What ins't he telling us?" Aside from examining healthcare in these countries, Moore also looks at other living conditions, such as paid vacations and childcare, and paints a very inviting portrait, especially of France. Yet, he only touches on the notion of higher taxes, and this is done by interviewing a French couple who appear to be wealthy. Moore would have been better served by comparing the amount of taxes and healthcare bills paid by the average American and compared them to the average Brit or Franco to see if things even out.

No matter ones politics, there are some very powerful moments in Sicko. It's difficult to hear Americans talk about the death of a spouse, the loss of a limb, or their bleak financial outlook and not have some sort of reaction. But, the film is also very bleak. Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 acted to inform the viewer, but there was also a message, especially in Fahrenheit 9/11, that the audience could do something to change things. One doesn't get that feeling with Sicko. The movie paints a soul-crushing picture of a system which is controlled by money and that even the most open-minded politicians are on the side of the insurance conglomerates. Moore does mention universal healthcare in the U.S., but one gets the feeling that the outlook isn't good. Of course, if more people see Sicko, this could change. Obviously, Sicko tackles a very serious subject, but it's also missing the dry humor which helped to make Moore's other films more watchable. There's no denying that Sicko is a powerful work and that it will create discussion, but some will find it very challenging.

Sicko checks in on DVD courtesy of The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. The film is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Sicko was shot on HD video. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. Being a documentary, Moore is often working with natural lighting, so some scenes are bright and others are dark, but most are fine. The colors look good and the image is stable for the most part, showing only trace amounts of video noise. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound. Overall, the track plays like a stereo track, as we get dialogue from the center channel and some sounds from the front channels. There was little subwoofer response and I only noted surround effects during musical cues.

The Sicko DVD contains a number of extra features. The DVD features many short segments which are essentially DELETED SCENES from the film. They are: "Sicko Goes to Washington" (8 minutes), where Moore speaks as part of a proposed healthcare bill; "This Country Beats France" (10 minutes) takes a look at Norway; "Uniquely American" (5 minutes) examines benefits held to help those in medical need; "What if You Worked for G.E. in France?" (3 minutes) Moore learns that employees of American companies get European benefits in France; "Sister Mary Fidel" (90 seconds) Moore discusses religion with a Cuban nun; "Who Would Jesus Deny?' (6 minutes) Moore visits an impoverished Texas town; "More with Mike & Tony Benn" (16 minutes) offers a closer look at the British politician featured in the film; the "Interview Gallery" has Moore's interviews with Dr. Aleida Guevara, Elizabeth Warren, and Dr. Marcia Angell (27 minutes). "A Different Kind of Hollywood Premiere" (3 minutes) features footage from Sicko's premiere, and then switches to Moore showing the film for the public on "Skid Row". The DVD features the Music Video "Alone Without You" by The Nightwatchman. Finally, we have the Theatrical Trailer which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 but is not 16 x 9.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long