Doc Review #3: “Sicko”

Sicko Poster


Runtime: 123 minutes

Currently on Netflix: No

Currently on Indieflix: No

IMDb page:


Well folks, I finally did something I thought I never would: I watched a Michael Moore documentary. Known to be as left as one can get, the trailers for his films turned me off because of the blatantly obvious, almost annoyingly liberal agenda spewing from them, but for you fine people reading my documentary reviews I thought I’d bite the bullet and try one out.

Now I’m not an ultra-conservative who is going to bash Michael Moore or his films, in fact if you put a gun to my head I’d probably have to say I’m almost right smack dab in the middle of our bipartisan political spectrum. So with that in mind, my verdict of Michael Moore’s 2007 film “Sicko” is…

…Eh, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Despite my reservations towards Moore and his films, I can tell you that I came out of the experience still pretty much half-Liberal, half-Conservative. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t learn anything valuable from this film, which mostly explores the lives of patients who have been slighted by the American healthcare system, as well as physicians and patients in foreign countries who brag about their socialized or universal healthcare systems.

Sicko patients laughing
Two new parents in Britain laugh when Moore asks them how much the hospital charged them for their baby.

Here are just three disheartening facts I learned from the film:

– HMO’s (Health Maintenance Organizations) were created in 1973 to arrange health care and be a liaison for healthcare providers– which sounds fine and dandy if it weren’t that they were truly started to provide LESS care to patients to make more profit, as this transcript of a recorded conversation between Nixon and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman (yes, the same John Ehrlichman involved in Watergate) shows.

– At the time of the film, insurance companies hired people to go through applications and find ANY way to deny a claim. This could have included the Prudent Person Preexisting Condition, meaning that the company can deny you if you experienced symptoms that, when put together in whatever magical order they can come up with, a health-conscious person would seek medical attention for. You had excessive hair growth and skin changes in your pubescent years? You probably had cancer, meaning no health insurance for you. With this in mind, it’s a wonder to me how anyone before Obamacare even GOT health insurance (to my understanding, Obamacare has significantly improved the situation for people with pre-existing conditions).

– One cochlear implant may be accepted by insurance companies, yet one in both ears is not because it is considered “experimental.”

(That last one caught me by surprise– is it “experimental” to hear out of both ears? To insurers it is, supposedly because there is not enough benefit of hearing out of two ears to justify the added cost. Something two ears is important for is sound localization, which comes in handy when, say, crossing a street. Hearing out of one ear is like seeing out of one eye– sure, you can see things, but you lose essential aspects like depth perception.)

I also learned to look at the release date of the films I watch. Just as I was wondering why every country doesn’t adopt universal healthcare, I noticed Sicko came out in 2007, just before the economic crisis of 2008 and bankruptcy of most of Europe. Many countries in Europe, including Britain, Spain, France, and Greece, had a universal or pseudo-universal healthcare system. The Europeans interviewed in the film bragged about being reimbursed for ambulance rides, free government employees who do laundry or cook for new mothers, and short hospital wait times. But could these impressive benefits have been their downfall?

Actually, it’s not very clear if universal healthcare was a major reason for the financial crisis; the burst European housing bubble may have been a key factor. And though many European countries, especially Spain, moved away from a universal system after the financial crisis, this is likely due to requirements to decrease social and healthcare spending in countries seeking a bailout by the “troika”—the European Central Bank, the European Union, and the IMF, who organized loans to several European countries.

Sicko Condescending Wonka
I almost fell victim to this as I watched the film.

This is starting to sound like a bad high school book report, so I’ll get back to the film, which raised a few questions for a future physician like myself. For example, with all the corruption in the insurance industry does increasing the number or insured patients through Obamacare help the patients, system, or insurers? And will getting more people insured correlate to more people being treated, or will insurance loopholes just take us right back where we started?

The future frightens and intrigues me.

I’ll end this review by saying that the things I’ve heard about Michael Moore- especially the over-the-top effort he puts into conveying his message (such as taking a group of American patients to Guantanamo Bay in a speedboat in an attempt to get them access to its quality healthcare)– were revealed in this documentary. He very matter-of-factly laid out the problems with our healthcare system, and did so without even mentioning Walter Reed’s Building 18 or bashing on Dubya (too much). Whether or not you agree with him, Moore is an obviously talented and influential filmmaker.


Cinematography: 7/10 Nothing too groundbreaking or special film-wise.

Soundtrack: 10/10 The soundtrack very effectively elicited certain emotions. It was clear that Moore had an agenda, and he used the music in the film to make sure those emotions and thoughts came into the viewer’s head.

Editing: 7/10 I knew going into it that the movie was an exploratory piece that involved many shots of home interviews and traveling, meaning shaky footage and thus difficult editing. However, the flow of the movie was very clear and understandable.

Impact: 7/10 The impact would be higher if the financial crisis in Europe didn’t happen soon after the film was released. Had I watched it in 2007, I would give it an 8.5/10, and if I had wanted to pursue a medical career at that time I would give it a 10/10.

Overall: 8/10 This film makes universal healthcare out to be a system sent to us by the gods–whether or not that’s true is up for debate. It was nice to imagine for just a second working as a physician in a system where I wouldn’t have to deal with insurance companies or worry about the patient’s ability to pay for treatment, one where people seem to care more about giving good care than making a profit.


Still think this film is a waste of two hours? Check out this more elaborate, eloquent and professional review written by in the Cannes Journal the day of the movie premiere.


Have you seen Sicko or any of Michael Moore’s other films? If you want to let us know what you think of this review or know of a film we should check out email us at or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.


-Scott Hines

Scott Hines is a Director for Blood, Sweat and Berries.