This film is not for those of a nervous disposition, as stated in the introduction. Its main concern is capitalism and how it has brought about a financial crisis not only in America, but in the rest of the world, although here director Michael Moore takes his home country as the main setting for his lecture. He wonders how it will be regarded in the far future: perhaps as we regard Ancient Rome now, with its massive gap between the small numbers of super rich and the vast majority of poor, along with the fear and crass entertainment the rulers used to keep its citizens in line.
Or will it be remembered for footage of cats flushing toilets? Moore, it's safe to say, doubts it, as he largely put away his customary stunts and attention seeking devices in the name of satire for a far more measured, reasoned and sober tone to his two hours of argument. That's not to say that he didn't resort to the odd scene of him showing up at yet another corporate building and harrassing some hapless security guard for the umpteenth time, schtick that was already growing old because you knew that the guard was simply doing his job and had no say in company policy, but for the most part this was Moore with his teacher's hat on.
He is, of course, a divisive figure, but for all his rolling out of a wealth of facts to back up his observations, he was not going to convince anyone who had closed their ears to him and written him off as some rabid loony leftie, so here the point was more to energise those who were willing to listen with a message that they were not alone in their worries for the world, and more importantly the way that the money men - that one percent of the population who own ninety-five percent of the wealth - seemed to have a stranglehold on the way things were run. Here Moore used interviews with many ordinary people who had suffered under capitalism, and mixed that in with interviews with experts who shared his point of view.
And guess what? Turns out socialism was not quite as reviled in America as the mass media would have you believe, with many of those spoken to backing up Moore's belief that there needed to be some kind of regulations in place to control the corporations and banks for getting us into this recession, and perhaps depression, as all the while they lined their pockets. Moore traces this back to the eighties, where big business not only began to work hand in hand with the government of Ronald Reagan, but actually were pulling the strings, ensuring that those rules to prevent them buying and selling whatever they wanted to increase already astronomical profits were abolished.
Ever since, Moore points out, the bankers have been calling the shots no matter what government was in power as they rode roughshod over the majority they were making their money out of. This leads to rising unemployment, evictions from homes, dwindling wages, and more importantly for the banks, billions, nay trillions of dollars for them to line the pockets of their own expensive suits as they made the economics of what was effectively illegal gambling with citizens' livelihoods so complex that nobody could pull them up on it, and even if they did, they had engineered a climate of fear to prevent anyone trying to upset the corrupt status quo from being heeded. After a while, it begins to sound as if Moore is scaremongering himself, and after two hours of these facts and figures a certain compassion and outrage fatigue sets in. Nevertheless, it does provide much food for thought, although you may not share the filmmaker's optimism that change is possible, radically or not, which might be what the bankers are counting on.