American documentarian Michael Moore travels around Europe (with one quick stop in Tunisia) to reveal all the great, progressive social and political ideas he thinks his own country should adopt.
It’s good to see Michael Moore back on the big screen, seven years after Capitalism: A Love Story. He doesn’t look so healthy these days (perhaps he can blame the American health care system he attacked in 2007’s Sicko), but his eye, mind and sense of humour are as sharp as ever. Though Where To Invade Next does have a somewhat misleading title.
This is no acerbic investigation into his country’s aggressive and disastrous foreign policy. Rather, he uses the US military record as a non-sequitur starting point to “invade” other countries (mostly European) on his nation’s behalf, “steal” their best ideas (rather than, say, their oil) and take them back to the US to make his own home a better place.
This is no acerbic investigation into his country’s foreign policy: it's a fascinating and often entertaining travelogue.
It’s a weak set up, but what follows proves a fascinating and often entertaining travelogue. From Italy, for example, he learns that every worker can take up to eight weeks paid leave, and he is told by one Italian CEO that “there is no clash between the profit of the company and the well-being of the people.” In Finland, he reveals that the key to it having the best education system in the world is its no-homework policy and its rejection of standardised testing.
In Norway, he highlights its criminal justice system, where prisoners are treated humanely, even keeping the keys to their own rooms (not cells); rehabilitation firmly and genuinely outweighs retribution. And in Iceland, he presents a country where women have true equal rights, and where the one female-run bank was the only institution not to bring about that country’s financial crash. (After which, he also points out, all the bankers responsible were actually prosecuted, unlike anywhere else in the world.)
All of which will make anyone with half a brain envious of these countries’ progressive policies and the political and social engagement of their citizens; Moore’s overriding theme is that these are people who, when they saw something unjust in their societies, actually fought for it. As ever, his logic is at times questionable, his editing techniques often dubious, his bias overwhelming, his jokes regularly lame and his narration intended for an American audience. But he makes strong points that stick, and there is enough painful truth to make a British viewer feel embarrassed and guilty that he found nothing worth stealing here.
Michael Moore proves that in six years between films he’s lost none of his power as a popular polemicist, and while the overall structure of his argument here is flimsy, the details he reveals have impact, suggesting a fair and just society is not an unattainable Utopia.