This article contains spoilers for the film Where to Invade Next.
You’ve probably already made up your mind about Michael Moore. You’ve seen him on the news with a megaphone and on the internet begging you to vote. You may have even shared clips from Bowling for Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11. But even if you’ve seen Roger & Me and Canadian Bacon, I’m betting you haven’t watched his latest full-length documentary (setting aside the one-off solo show TrumpLand) Where to Invade Next, but you totally should because it’s pro-America as fuck.
The thing about filmmakers with any sort of extra-cinematic identity is their reputation can obscure their craft (e.g. Spike Lee). We’re also up against the vanishing center of United States culture: Everything has to be super-right or super-left, and the extremes are always the loudest. So Moore often gets painted as this slovenly hypocrite who hates the U.S. and rakes in millions making Marxist propaganda. Or even if we like the ideas, we still don’t care much about the man—or his films.
That’s a damn shame because he’s a pretty good filmmaker. I’ve seen about half his movies now, having binged them recently after decades of dismissing him. They’re funny, charming, far from extreme, and they’re absolutely as pro-America as Mark Twain. Moore’s corny and earnest on-screen persona fits right in with the other gadflies, and although he definitely has a perspective he wants to sell you on, he backs everything up with verifiable facts. Go check out Moore’s website and see for yourself: Each movie’s homepage has a facts section sporting a bunch of links to independent sources.
Where To Invade Next has such a section—98 items long. This is largely due to the film’s breadth, both geographically and ideologically. The movie follows Moore around the world (well, mostly Europe) as he investigates how they do things, cheekily planting the U.S. flag and stealing all their good ideas. He discovers (as he intends to, of course) they do a lot of things differently from how we do them here.
He spends the movie going around talking to workers, students, politicians, prisoners and so on, asking them about their lives and how things work for them. It turns out many hip socio-political ideas—universal health care, decriminalized drugs, free education, workers’ and women’s rights—have been tried in the countries Moore visits. In some cases, they’ve been trying them for decades, and the results appear to be positive. A pre-fame Bernie even makes a cameo with Moore goggling over the audacity of being an openly socialist U.S. senator.
The funniest thing about Where to Invade Next is the running punchline: When Moore asks where these sweet ideas came from, people keep telling him, “We got it from you guys!” This is especially striking when he talks to Olafur Hauksson, the Icelandic police-chief-turned-special-prosecutor who went after—and convicted—several high-profile bankers suspected of financial wrongdoing. Hauksson points Moore to Bill Black, who played a central role in the 1980s savings and loan crisis, and credits Black with inspiring his own investigations.
Moore ends at the Berlin Wall Memorial, and from its historic fall derives a metaphor about persistence and resistance: the image of the ordinary people who tackled the Iron Curtain’s concrete embodiment with ordinary hammers and chisels. The wall came down due to a large number of factors, but Moore wants to sell us on the idea that every little bit matters. Call it the drop in the ocean mindset.
This part of the film spawned an award series, Hammer & Chisel, honoring individuals who take social justice into their own hands. These include such crusaders as a single father and cook turned union organizer, a former elementary school kitchen manager who became a food security activist after getting fired for giving lunches to students without money, the Seattle-based founder of #shoutyourabortion, a Massachusetts police chief who took a more practical and people-friendly approach to drug offences, and all manner of relatively small-scale activists—people who are mad as hell and aren’t going to take this any more.
And that attitude is what drives change. It’s the attitude that started this country in the first place, and it’s why Where to Invade Next is pro-America as fuck.