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Fast Food Nation Print E-mail
Reviewed by Ceri Balston   
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Fast Food NationFollowing the lives of the people involved in and affected by the making of The Big One, the flagship product of fictitious burger chain Mickey’s, Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation reveals some rather unpalatable truths about this industry and will leave you wondering how you ever managed to eat a burger, chicken nuggets or their accompanying fries in the first place.

One of the opening scenes features Mickey’s advertising executive Don Anderson, played by the excellent Greg Kinnear, testing the fake aromas for the new Caribbean flavour chicken nuggets during its development process. Meeting in the lab where the elements of taste, texture and aroma of new products appear to be engineered Anderson’s reaction is; “I think people will have an expectation for maybe a touch of lime”, “Oh, that’s easy”, replies the food technician, “I just hold back on the terbutaline to enhance the flavours”.

The artificially created tastes and flavours of the burger world is just the slightly humorous and intriguing start to what soon becomes an exposé of the industry’s entire supply chain, from the growing of the cattle through to the creation of The Big One. Anderson is sent on a fact finding mission to the company’s meat processing plant in Colorado to find out why, as his boss puts it, “There’s shit in the meat”. Yep, it appears that corners are being cut and hygiene at the abattoir is being neglected at the potential cost to the health of Mickey’s customers, and more importantly to Anderson, to the Mickey’s brand.

His journey to Colorado ties in with the numerous other stories that highlight the negative ramifications of an industry that is such a slave to profit margins. Although this film will add more fuel to the fervent fire of vegetarians and animal rights activists the horrific mistreatment of the cattle takes somewhat of a back seat. Instead it focuses its attention upon the human issues such as the illegal immigrant workers of the abattoir suffering under horrendous conditions where their safety is often severely jeopardised and accidents are frequent.

The many actors in Fast Food Nation, including Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Wilmer Valderrama, Bruce Willis and Kris Kristoffersen, are excellent and do their best to bring a sensitivity and intelligence to a movie that sadly all too often lacks in pace and direction. The myriad of stories, whilst making you think carefully about the food that we consume, created a rather disjointed film that we feel lacked the attention grabbing punch and shock factor of a movie like Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Super Size Me’.

We feel that Fast Food Nation is only really going to be appreciated by those who’ve already adopted a vegetarian lifestyle, support animal rights, or who are simply conscious about what food they consume. It’s a shame because there are many really valuable insights and thought provoking themes in this movie but it does feel a bit too much like preaching to the converted.

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