In many ways, watching documentaries can be like playing with fire—large amounts of intriguing information, disseminated in the context of entertainment, can very quickly draw in a high viewer count. When documentaries have a strong political leaning, be it to the left or the right, it takes only a single spark to light a fire that enrages the masses. With that thought in mind, Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next walks a dangerous line from the very beginning.
Moore’s film operates on the premise that America has officially run out of countries to invade, and that American officials need his assistance to determine what country has the most valuable “resources” worth stealing. Moore then travels to a variety of locations, from Italy to Slovenia to Tunisia, highlighting their practices and opinions regarding social issues in every area. The driving principle of Where To Invade Next is, by itself, a work of genius, deserving high ratings just for originality. Thankfully, the fun doesn’t stop there.
Moore begins by taking a trip to Italy, where he meets with anyone from average citizens to factory workers to CEOs. He asks them about their positions on and experience with their work, and every answer is resoundingly similar: nearly all Italians are quite satisfied with their occupations. Furthermore, middle-class worker stress levels in Italian society are at an all-time low, which creates a society with, generally speaking, good mental health. Moore presses further—he discovers that this is, in large part, due to the six to eight weeks of guaranteed paid vacation provided by the Italian government, as well as the family-driven culture of Italy. In contrast with American ideals, Moore asserts, there is an undeniable disparity. He then “claims” Italy for the United States, stealing their idea to bring home to the U.S. government.
The documentary progresses with much the same formula, but it never becomes tiresome or worn out. Moore visits France in pursuit of better health education, Finland and Slovenia for college tuition, Germany for workplace standards and solutions to racism, Portugal for narcotics policy, and so on. The espoused message of the film is undeniably progressive, but never feels abrasive, malicious, or anti-American. In fact, Moore ends his documentary realizing that America can regain much of her former glory if her citizens and government re-embrace forgotten ideals. It’s strange to associate the terms “Michael Moore” and “apolitical,” but this is just the path that Where To Invade Next takes.
Beyond the central message, the cinematic quality of Where To Invade Next is top-tier. Moore’s compilation of music and visuals is truly stunning, leaving the audience incredibly uncomfortable with the state of America’s social norms. The film makes excellent use of silence as well, leaving viewers to comprehend the ramifications of what has just been said. Regardless of whether or not the audience agrees with the message, the technical aspects of Where To Invade Next hammer home its message with disturbing effectiveness.
Moore’s latest documentary ends with three simple words: “Hammer, chisel, down.” Repeated several times, the phrase refers to actions taken to bring down the Berlin Wall once and for all. As Moore says, “It takes the exact same steps to destroy harmful societal standards that have entrenched themselves so deeply within American culture.” It is an honorable goal to make the world a better place for all who live in it, and Where To Invade Next is yet another “hammer, chisel, down” in the right direction.
Featured Image By Dog Eat Dog Films