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'Sicko' on ailing US health care
By Brian Offenther

SOME movies can be appreciated outside the context of the filmmakers. Whether or not audiences appreciate the other works of M. Night Shyamalan, and many don't, his film "The Sixth Sense" is almost universally lauded.

On the other hand, appreciation of Woody Allen films like "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Manhattan" or "Match Point" is almost wholly based on your feelings about Allen's aesthetic, and even his personality.

Love him or hate him, Michael Moore is one of the great filmmakers in the world today. Not just a documentarian, either, as his films have crossed over completely from their usual genre limitations.

Still, whether you do indeed love him or the other, it's almost certain your appreciation depends on your feelings toward the man. He's a polarizing figure, with his blustery liberal attitudes, disheveled look, baseball cap, and love of ambush interviewing that drives some people crazy.

That said, this film critic found "Sicko" to be a worthwhile film about the sickness that pervades the collective US view on health care.

Moore makes the case that when Richard Nixon calcified American health care to be for-profit (he plays that president's secret sound recordings to prove it), he insured that insurance companies will put profits ahead of care.

We meet people involved in literal horror stories, such as being forced to accept the loss of limbs after they are unable to afford medical care.

At the same time, Moore goes from Canada to England to France and examines their "socialized" health care systems. The dramatic highlight is the next and final stop of the tour, in which Moore takes some Americans who suffered the most from a lack of quality health care to another country.

All the while, Moore is a constant, and surprisingly calming, presence. Unlike his earlier documentaries like "Bowling for Columbine" and "Farenheit 9/11," Moore relies less on overt comedy bits to pull his movie together. Instead, this film is steadier, perhaps losing some of the giddy moments of the others but providing a smoother experience.

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