Wednesday 24 August 2016

Where to Invade Next

Although Michael Moore is extremely controversial in his political bias, there’s a reason he’s one of the most famous documentary filmmakers working – agree or disagree with his views, his films are bloody good. There’s nothing like a Michael Moore film to make you realise just how wrong a lot of the world does things. Although Moore predominantly points his finger at the US and criticises their every move – such as his harrowing study on US gun control, Bowling for Columbine, or his US health system-damning Sicko - his latest film could easily apply to other places, even such as here in the UK.

Where to Invade Next, which is out now on DVD & Blu-ray, is easily one of Moore’s best films to date. The premise is simple – Moore supposes the US leaders have asked him where they’re going wrong with the country, and he must go on a mission to find out. He says he will invade countries populated by people with names he ‘can mostly pronounce’ – and steal their great ideas and policies. The film is essentially a travelogue – think Bill Bryson with more of a political agenda. He visits Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Tunisia and Iceland in his quest to improve the US. Moore’s first film in 6 years, it was produced in secret with a small crew. And it might just be his masterpiece.

As usual with Moore’s films, this is essentially a farcical comedy. The humour here comes from just how much better other countries have it – Moore laughs in disbelief as he learns of Italy’s amazing workers’ rights, Slovenia’s tuition-free education and the culinary delights of France’s school cafeterias. The humour is also self-deprecating from a US point of view; one sequence discusses how only 2 countries in the world don’t offer paid maternity leave as they’re ‘too poor to afford it’. The first is Papua New Guinea, and we see a bleak shot of a shanty town. The second? The US. At this point, we’re treated to an explosive display of a monster truck flying over a pile of smashed cars. Moore often laments the US throughout it, in an almost Bill Hicks style.

But despite the humour, Where To Invade Next is quite a moving experience. Moore is clearly emotionally invested in the subject, often stunned into a sad silence by his findings. On multiple occasions he is even choked up by what he hears, in particular an interview in which an ex-US teacher tells him that children being told ‘they can be anything they want’ is a lie in the US, because there are so few opportunities due to a far poorer education system. This is why I like Moore – he genuinely seems interested in his subjects. Some documentary filmmakers are just looking at the big picture of trying to make a good film – Moore is also interested in the people.

Where to Invade Next is an excellent piece of work. Visually, the film is very strong – although occasionally (understandably) leaning on shaky archive footage, new interviews and on-location shooting is crisp and clear. The film’s pace and editing is one of is strongest features, making the 2 hour runtime fly by. But it’s the charismatic Moore himself who makes the film so watchable, continuing to prove himself a strong interviewer and social/political commentator. And although his personal views trickle through occasionally, Where To Invade Next is not weighed down by Moore’s usual bias – on the contrary, this film is accessible to anyone of any belief or view.

It’s hard to say any more about the film without getting into the nitty-gritty of the policies Moore discovers on his travels, and reviewing these policies themselves. All I can say is this – Where To Invade Next is a film that will make you think, and perhaps even feel embarrassed if you live in a country that is too silly to take some of these excellent ideas forward. Watch it with a friend or family member, because this is a film to discuss.

Wondering what to watch next? This is your answer. 5/5


Sam Love

Where to Invade Next at CeX

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