‘Sicko’ is a strange mix of commentary. It captures injustice at all levels and draws in corporate greed, references 9/11, questions Americans anathema to socialism, with Moore’s trademark ability to make a point using archive film footage and soundbites. We meet people who cannot afford health care, people who have health care but have been bankrupted by the medical costs not covered by their policies. We meet former employees who look for loop holes to avoid payment, doctors who openly admit they have looked for ways to avoid providing treatment. The documentary travels to Europe, Canada, Gunatanemo Bay and Cuba looking at the free health care in those respective places, as volunteers from 9/11 who have suffered lasting injuries, look on as the US authorities claim they were not employees of the city so are not entitled to benefits.
You cannot but be cautious in how much of the information you embrace. Some of it seems over simplified, there are over idealised versions of the French and UK health systems, and always the sense that an alleged 500 hours of footage have been cut very selectively, using the most convincing people, while some scenes in Cuba in particular seem staged. Always, though the horrific stories and the sorry state people have been left in are testament to a hugely problematic system. The problem with Moore’s wide canvas is that at times he veers too much off course, whether it be clinging to saccharine sentiments as opposed to hitting us with more facts or aiming unnecessarily for sensation when he already has a shocking story to tell. I found myself at times confused by the agenda of the film, showing clips from various Bush administration personnel testifying to the happy state of the ill in Gunatanemo to unceremoniously brandishing both Hilary Clinton and Bush as easily bribed at the expense of the public. Maybe there is no politically aligned agenda and Moore’s mission is simply to demonstrate the flaws in the system, irrespective of who is in power. This is in of itself a noble cause, though ultimately the impact of the film is slightly diluted by generalisations thrown in for little but sarcastic or dramatic effect.