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Movie Review: Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare


Escape Fire:  The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

 This compelling 90-minute documentary was directed by Susan Frömke and Matthew Heineman.  It endeavors to tackle the complex subject of what is wrong with the healthcare system in America but how it should be fixed.  While it is not the first documentary with such ambitions (attempted before most notably by Michael Moore with Sicko) it makes a worthwhile contribution to the discussion.   

“Escape Fire’s” initially confusing title is explained by the story of a team of firefighters surrounded by a fire burning too quickly to outrun.  One firefighter manages to save himself by actually starting a fire at his own feet, reasoning that if he burns the fuel around him before the main fire reaches him he will be surrounded by a safety zone.  This “escape fire” allowed him to survive unharmed while the rest of the crew perished.  The film posits that we are in a similar situation – unless we can start to think more innovatively about new solutions we will be engulfed by the flaws in our current system of health care.

This documentary artfully presents statistics to illustrate this point.   The filmmaker’s also have a real skill bringing those statistics to life with human stories.   Particularly affecting are some profiles of soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan addicted to dozens of medications who are successfully treated with alternatives such as meditation.  Experts such as Dean Ornish explain how “75% of healthcare costs go to treating chronic diseases that are largely preventable” and what can be done to change this alarming fact.

At 90 minutes the film is too long to be absorbed in one viewing.   However, its many compelling segments should hopefully help to play a role in reimagining the future of healthcare in the US.

Simone Fary is an Instructional Design and Technology Specialist at The Danya Institute