Where to Invade Next – Review ****

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We’ve waited six long years since Capitalism: A Love Story for Michael Moore’s next documentary. The filmmaker that imprinted his own very special style of fly-in-the-soup to the genre, and rose to international fame in 2002 as “that fat dude who did Bowling for Columbine”, is now back and on a mission – to invade other (pronounceable) countries for the United States of America and steal their best ideas to bring back to the Home of the Brave, Land of the Free, and definitely Best Country Ever (*terms and conditions apply).

Moore’s one man army gets going to several countries (all except one in Europe) to get some tips on how to solve some American problems. From work/life balance and paid holidays (Italy), to healthy lunch menus (France), free university (Slovenia), best school system (Finland), drug decriminalization (Portugal), learning from the past (Germany), women’s health clinics (Tunisia), prison system (Norway) and ending with the prosecution of the bankers responsible for the economic meltdown (Iceland), Moore goes sticking the American flag on innovative ideas that he can bring back home to try to implement. Like almost homonymous More, Moore paints an Utopia of his own, only instead of creating an ideal society, he goes on getting the best pieces from different puzzles, put them in a funny and sarcastic box, and gives us two hours of his usual brilliance. Finishing at the Berlin Wall with a powerful metaphor (it started with a bunch of guys with chisels and hammers, and the impossible problem of the Cold War was solved three days later), and with the reminder to the Americans that most of these ideas were based of the ideals of the American Dream, which seems to live on everywhere except in the States, Moore confesses himself to be an optimist, and believes that every complex problem has a simple solution.

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Yes, this is a film mostly directed to an American audience, a few months away from deciding who is going to rule them for the next four years. Watching it as a European, and thus an “insider” on the amazing things Moore praises, is to have a very cynical view on his somewhat romanticized presentation of our policies, but as Moore does say from the beginning, he is looking for the flowers and will ignore the weeds (though he is aware of their existence). His analysis of the Norwegian prison system, where he doesn’t shy away from the 2011 mass shooting and interviews the father of one of the victims, asking him “Would you kill him, if you had a chance?” and getting the answer “No, I would never drop to his level of thinking I have the right of taking someone’s life,” reminds us that the true goal of the film is not to be a touristic, idealistic postcard of Europe (though it sure as hell look like one) but shame the Americans on their main beliefs about society; life, law and justice. As a side casualty, he destroys even further most people’s dreamy idea of the USA.

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Even if most of the film doesn’t feel as incisive as his previous work (the humour and the idea of a lone conqueror working as a numbing factor between the skin and the sting) in two particular instances we get to see the “old” Moore in action – when he, while in Portugal, links the criminalization of “urban” drugs in the US to a subtle form of racial control (as whoever gets a criminal record loses the right to vote), and notes that “rich white folk” drugs get lighter sentences than “urban” drugs, and when in Iceland he makes a case (and call) for a world matriarchy, saying that things seem to go better when women are leading – a controversy that is unfortunately timed with its (completely coincidental) applicability to the Presidential election…

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Where to Invade Next is funny, to the point, a tiny bit delusional (but in a good way) and blatantly American in its essence – as apparently everything good that exists has its roots in America (whether this is a marketing ploy to make the intended audience swallow the bitter pill or Moore’s actual belief, we’re not sure). And though the grass is greener on the other side, the director returns to Kansas in the hopes of spreading the message, giving us the consolation, from this side of the Atlantic, that if the world actually comes to Armageddon on November 9th, 2016, at least this guy will make a wicked documentary about it…

Where to invade Next is in UK cinemas from 10th June 2016.

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.