The best story in Escape Fire—a documentary skewering the health industry that the recently departed Roger Ebert called "extraordinary" and gave his trademark thumbs up—is about a young soldier who has returned injured—both mentally and physically—from the war. Self-identified as a "hillbilly," the young man explains that he would have scoffed at what he calls Eastern medicine before he experimented with yoga and other such stuff. In the very next scene, the young soldier is seeing laying back asking an attending nurse if this is when they open his chi. He is a heartfelt character and clearly, as all good story arcs need, shows personal progress.
Unfortunately, though, the remainder of the film, while consistently compelling, spends more time with superficial indictments. Much less rabid than Michael Moore's Sicko (2007), the film is calmly convincing. It steers away from grand indictments, and tells reasonable stories about reasonable individuals—like the young soldier or the film's opening chapter that follows a young physician in The Dalles who is calling it quits after three frustrating years; stories that serve as the trees to tell us about the troubled forest of health care.
But, ironically, like the physicians that the film criticizes for not spending enough time with their patients and/or for throwing a handful of pharmaceuticals at the problem instead of rooting at the deeper causes, the film points out problems but does not provide truly deep, valid, systemic solutions.
Escape Fire debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival and has received broadcasts on CNN. It is a good, just not great, film.
Clearly, Escape Fire has an agenda, but that's OK. In spite of the filmmakers' best efforts, Escape Fire does not seem to get past the opening salvo that the health care system is broken. But perhaps even that is OK. The film does serve an important function: It introduces a pressing topic and serves more as a preface for an important discussion rather than the actual discussion—which is precisely how the film is being used this evening. Dr. Erin Martin, who is featured in the film, will host a panel discussion following the film. SW
7 pm Saturday, June 8
Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.