You don’t get filmmakers who like to rock the boat more than Michael Moore. If you’ve followed his career for the past fifteen years, you’ll have seen some of his classic documentaries: Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko – all features which are just as relevant now. Moore has joined the small league of documentarians who have forced the hand of real change: like Errol Morris’ groundbreaking The Thin Blue Line which helped re-open a murder case, Moore’s meddling got KMart to phase out the selling of ammunition during the filming of Columbine. While Where to Invade Next, the man’s latest doc, is far too tangential and unrigorous to have even a fraction of the same effect, what it does do is inspire us from within.
The most powerful country in the world, Moore argues through the voices of those who have implemented change and reaped the benefits, doesn’t seem to have the ideologies to do so itself
Despite beginning with a hilarious segment in which the director tells America’s armies to ‘stand down’, the movie fails to set up its premise, which is this: Moore will visit different countries around the world, and ‘steal’ an idea or two from each of them to bring back to the USA – be it no college tuition fees from Slovenia, making sure that half of a company’s board is composed of workers like in Germany, or spearheading women’s rights across Tunisia and Iceland. Except we launch straight into the factories of Italy, where we’re left dizzied; once we travel to the next place of interest, the movie’s structure thankfully becomes more apparent. Moore visits students, police officers, floor workers, CEOs, and high-ranking officials (in some cases, current and ex presidents) to uncover the hows and whys of their nation’s success in areas over the States, and although we meet dozens of incredible humans through these encounters, whenever Moore incites a statistic (usually presented as a playful graphic), there’s very little in the way of genuine numbers to back his arguments up. But that’s almost his point, in a way: the change is so palpable that it almost defies measurement, and its improvement in the citizens’ quality of life over that of an American is staggering. The most powerful country in the world, Moore argues through the voices of those who have implemented change and reaped the benefits, doesn’t seem to have the ideologies to do so itself.
Although it flies by in a freshly optimistic mode for Moor, there are some genuinely lump-in-the-throat moments along the way: long digressions into Germany’s Nazi past takes a while for the director to bring it back round to its overall point, which is that America should similarly take into account its bloody past in order for its children to grow up with a wider view of the world and their place – and impact – on it. Where to Invade Next thrives on these sequences, a movie where ideas are like rocket fuel – but Moore never once stakes out the outside of a banker’s or politician’s home back on home soil, or protests on the steps of congress. Perhaps that Michael Moore is gone; much like how he describes himself as becoming a ‘crazy optimist’ at the film’s close, maybe he’s subscribed to a newer philosophy – one where he needs to step back now and then and let the world take charge of its own destiny, and instead help nudge it along the correct path.