Dark secrets lurk between the buns
Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Fast Food Nation
3.5 stars out of five
Dir: Richard Linklater
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Patricia
Arquette, Avril Lavigne, Ethan Hawke, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis
"There's s--- in our burgers." Early on
in Fast Food Nation, the words of Mickey's hamburger restaurant chain marketing
executive Don Henderson's boss leave him in no doubt why he is being sent to
check on the firm's meat supplier.
Director Richard Linklater's film, a dramatization
of author Eric Schlosser's 2001 expose of the fast-food industry, is a fine
ensemble piece with solid performances by the main cast and some fascinating
big-name cameo roles.
The story mainly takes place in the Colorado town
of Cody, where all the cows that supply the meat for Mickey's "Big
One" burgers are reared before ending up at the UMP
Henderson, played by Greg Kinnear, is introduced
to the dark side of his industry and discovers that there's more to his
company's flagship product than meets the eye.
Meanwhile, the film also addresses the issues of
the workers in the factory, almost all of whom are illegal aliens from Mexico,
and their plight is related with compassion and tenderness.
Other Cody residents are represented in the form
of the old ranchers, whose businesses have been consumed by the massive
meatpacking company, and local high school students, especially those who work
in the local branch of Mickey's.
Henderson meets one of those old ranchers, and
Kris Kristofferson is perfectly cast as the hard-bitten, cynical Rudy Martin,
whose insights into the meatpacking industry are an eye-opener for the
The scenes with the students add another dimension,
with the call for direct action by some activists at an environmental meeting
met with a reminder of how wide-ranging the scope of the Patriot Act in the
United States could be. Ultimately, their efforts to make a difference come to
nothing, and one of them is left with another dilemma concerning animals that
are bred purely to supply the fast food industry.
The final 10 minutes of the film contain some of
the most powerful images you are likely to see on a movie screen this year,
especially if you have never visited or worked in the killing bay of a
Whether the movie will alter people's eating
habits is questionable. Immediately after watching the film I may not have been
in the mood for a hamburger, but opted for a salad sub, albeit from another
fast-food restaurant chain.
More importantly, the film also addresses
globalization, animal rights, environmental contamination and dangerous
workplaces. If awareness of these issues is raised in cinema audiences, the
film will have been a resounding success.
The movie, in English and Spanish, is currently
(Feb. 22, 2008)