Review of Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

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An investigative documentary that uncovers the U.S. healthcare system's true design.
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Movie Title: "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: October 5, 2012
Directed by: Susan Frömke and Matthew Heineman
Genre: Documentary and News

"Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" is a documentary that tells the story of the healthcare system in the United States. Starring Don Berwick, Shannon Brownlee, and Steve Burd, the movie explores the design of the system and examines some of its shortcomings. The result is a fascinating, engaging movie that will educate and entertain viewers.

"Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" provides an alarming look at the state of public health in the United States and the extent to which the healthcare system is helping and hindering the healing process. The movie puts forth several statistics that will be no surprise to viewers, all of which point to a single fact-many Americans are unhealthy.

The healthcare system in the United States, it seems, does little to alleviate the problem. According to "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare," hospitalization is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Rather than treat the underlying causes of the major health problems-like obesity and post-traumatic stress disorder-many healthcare providers opt for quick fixes like drug prescriptions and surgery.

The subject of healthcare is difficult to encompass in a single film, but "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" does so admirably. It covers all aspects of the industry, touching briefly on areas that have been covered by films like "Supersize Me" to round out the picture. The result is easy to understand, even for viewers who do not have a wealth of previous knowledge.

In a particularly moving storyline, the documentary looks at the ways the healthcare system both fails and helps veterans from the wars in the Middle East. The movie introduces viewers to the successes and failures in the treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, a condition that plagues many veterans. The cameras follow an emergency flight out of Afghanistan, where a soldier has overdosed on painkillers and cannot function properly. The man in question is Sergeant Robert Yates, who leaves the battlefield with a serious injury and a serious prescription drug problem. Unlike many veterans, his story has a happy ending when he takes advantage of the Air Force's alternative healthcare options. Instead of continuing to use drugs to deal with his pain and post-traumatic stress issues, he turns to acupuncture treatments, begins to practice yoga, and meditates regularly. With that treatment-an option not offered as a viable treatment possibility by most hospitals in the United States-he finds complete relief from his pain.

"Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" also examines the underlying causes of many of the health problems that plague many American citizens. By using an effective combination of statistics and real-life examples, the filmmakers create a compelling case for lifestyle improvement in the United States. Viewers will not be shocked to learn that fast food restaurants offer healthy menu options at considerably higher prices than unhealthy options. To make matters worse, the healthy foods are usually accompanied by high-fat, high-calorie toppings and dressings. It's little wonder that obesity-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease are on the rise.

Directors Susan Frömke and Matthew Heineman take their film a step further than many healthcare documentaries, giving viewers insight into the ways the United States healthcare system perpetuates public health issues. During filming, Frömke and Heineman sought out a variety of healthcare professionals in order to get the other side of the story. They present doctors who are paid according to the number of patients they can see per hour-a system that naturally results in decreased quality of care. The directors also seek out doctors who genuinely want to provide thoughtful, personalized service that gets to the root of patients' health problems, but the picture is equally bleak due to rising insurance premiums and financial strain. Their interview subjects are earnest and well meaning; rather than demonize doctors, Frömke and Heineman explain how the system fails health professionals as well as patients.

Overall, "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare" is focused and thoughtful. In addition to laying out the problems and exploring the flaws in the system, it creates a feeling of hope. Each issue is presented simply, with well-researched anecdotes and supporting data. The filmmakers skillfully integrate each story and expert testimony into a seamless representation of the system as a whole. Rather than confuse viewers with a flood of statistics, Frömke and Heineman use powerful stories to illustrate their points. The result is a memorable, moving story that stays with viewers long after the closing credits.

Rating: 3 out of 5