Michael Moore is an acquired taste. He has a snarky demeanour and a cocky attitude. His it’s-so-obvious tone can seem downright smug too often and, understandably, puts people off.
Where to Invade Next uses his manner to set-up the premise as he arrogantly “invades” other countries intent on stealing their ideas. In the midst of a US election, and a debate raging between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, this is the moment to consider what America stands for. Is it the country built on an American Dream, promising opportunity for all? Or has it descended into a blurred combination of broken race-relations, distrust and a fearsome military power? It’s clear where Michael Moore stands.
He explores Europe. In Italy, among the workforce behind Ducati motorcycles, Moore discovers the two-hour lunch breaks all are entitled to. How, in Finland, with the best education system in the world their big secret is setting no homework. Kids should play, explore and seek out information. They need to find their passions rather than be brow-beaten into submission. In Germany, regularly in schools, they reflect on the uglier side to history. How often do America reflect on their history of slavery or their treatment of Native Americans? In Britain, proud as we are of Queen and Country, do we reflect on the horrific truth behind the British Empire? But this is only scratching the surface, as Where to Invade Next jets between Iceland, Slovenia, Norway and Portugal and constantly invades your mind with the infectious hope of an exciting future: imagine being paid for a thirteenth month? Imagine your child gaining access to the finest lunches in school? Imagine a three-week holiday for your honeymoon, by law. These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams; they are functioning, country-wide expectations that have been in place for years. For the US, it may be half a world away, but for the UK it’s literally across the channel.
Where to Invade Next is hilarious, bold and brutally honest. Superior to Capitalism: A Love Story and Bowling for Columbine, Where to Invade Next is the Moore film you must see. There is a reason the Icelandic Prime Minister stood down after the Panama Papers revealed details of his financial dealings, while others remain in power and the issue has become stale. There is a reason ongoing strikes in the UK, for the NHS, teachers and fire services, seem to change so little. There is an apathy and resigned sigh that this is the best we can get. Convinced that this is how society works, we are refusing to hold account the bankers responsible for the recession, unlike Iceland who’ve jailed many already. We’re told that higher education must be a fee-paying system, “for the economy”, while so many countries offer it for free.
But, clearly, society doesn’t have to work like this (in the UK and US) and, in simple terms, it seems barmy that we’re not exploring other options. Take Finland, renowned for being the best education system in the world. Surely it is common sense that others copy and follow their method, for the sake of the next generation; our children’s future. But Finland have remained the best education system for years while pressures mount on homework, exams and results in the UK – with the bonus of a life-paying cost if you’re lucky enough to gain a place at a University. Michael Moore often delivers his documentaries with gusto and Where to Invade Next is no different. This is simple, obvious, stuff. If we’re actively choosing not to adapt and learn from the best, then what are we trying to do instead? I have a funny feeling that enormous quantities of green notes and shiny coins are something to do with it.