Skyrocketing domestic health care costs are tackled with sobriety in Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare, but the film offers only, alas, a partial-solution analysis. Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke’s documentary gets its title from a wildfire anecdote that speaks to the need to embrace risky tactics to survive—a clunky metaphor that isn’t indicative of its overall tack, which, aside from a few overly cartoony graphics, speaks to its hot-button topic with a clarity and urgency that never strays into fear-mongering. With spending on treatment and pharmaceuticals exceeding sustainable levels, the film proposes as an answer preventive measures that, it argues, would radically reduce disease—and costs. Making this contention, the film fingers Americans’ unhealthy behavior (overeating, lack of exercise, excessive smoking and drinking) as the root cause of the immense financial burden now placed on health care, though such claims would have further benefited from a wider variety of talking heads and less reliance on tragic Michael Moore–style personal-interest stories. More frustrating, however, is that by failing to equally address the other remedy for our current health care predicament—namely, the necessity of forcing drug companies and providers to charge less—Escape Fire winds up feeling like only one half of a larger argument.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 3, 2012