Food, Inc. (2008) (PG)

"Food, Inc." is the kind of movie that makes me never want to eat food again. Exposing the bureaucracy within the food industry and the mega-corporations that run them, this documentary tries to be as controversial as possible, and in many ways it succeeds.
You are what you eat says that age old idiom and maybe that's true, maybe not; but what we should know at least is if what we are going to eat is going to kill us. "Food, Inc." plays much like a love child for director Robert Kenner whose voice can be heard in many of the interviews. Consisting part of animations that are cheaply constructed to show how detrimental the food industry can be--not only to human life, but life in general--and partly of voice-over and interviews, the film tries its best to be as encompassing as possible within its 90 minute running time. Sadly, this isn't quite enough.
For you see "Food, Inc." is a conspiracy film, one that would have you believe that every major food corporation within America is trying to sell you the soul of the devil, and maybe that's right; but the film's biggest problem is that it never gives any evidence to the contrary.
Bravely going up huge company after major food supplier, the film decides to ask the question of ethics and they are always shot down by the companies that they are investigating. We are told, on numerous occasions, that these companies declined to be interviewed for the film; yet that simply isn't enough. It's obvious that the silence of the corporations gives Kenner a bigger platform to spew his bias, for that is what we're watching, though it is highly convincing bias. I find it hard to believe that the film didn't manage to drag up one employee from one company who had good things to say about what they were doing; but then again, what do I know?
The film begins with a question of freshness. How fresh is fresh and what will you do to get fresh?
Although the agrarian idea of the picture-perfect farmer standing next to his cattle with the sun setting in front of him is still used in retail today, the sad fact is that the quintessential farmer is all but extinct. The farmers that do survive, are working for the major suppliers in America.
What started out as innocuous enough grew into something quite deadly, most of America's food supply only comes from a few mega-structures in the food industry. This monopoly that people hold on meat and grain makes us realize that pretty much everything we ingest is coming from one of only a handful of places, and at what cost both fiscally and health-wise.
"Food, Inc." can be quite disturbing with the imagery it shows, whether its thousands of cow carcasses being butchered carelessly in their own manure or baby chicks being electrocuted in assembly-line form. Kenner is very clever here, we respect animals more than humans most of the time, therefore we will be more sympathetic to the plight of baby chicks (they are pretty cute, you have to admit) than we might be to starving children in Africa...ooh, touchy, but true.
Kenner doesn't stop there and here is where the film is its strongest because its where the film is the most emotional and powerful. As we see the terrible conditions that these animals are bred to die in, we can't help but sympathize just a little because the lack of conviction is so strong.
One of the most gut wrenching moments in the film shows a crippled cow being forced to walk on its mutilated legs towards the slaughter house so that it too can be consumed by the machine. It's very Orwellian, this movie.
Yet there is a level of too far that Kenner flirts with mighty heavily. He likes to let us know that he knows that we know.....nevermind.
"Food, Inc." doesn't stop with just the animals, and continues on the grains that we eat and how they are genetically mutated into being pesticide-resistant. The conglomerate machine that is the food industry has an enormous hold on the product of certain starches and vegetables, the one the film explores the most is the soy bean.
But there must be so much more information than just this. There has got to be thousands of sources that would expound upon different types of vegetables and different styles of mass productions. This movie could easily translate into a mini-series.
Still, at the end of it all, you have to wonder whether it was all worth it or not. What good did that really do? Certainly the film is a rally for local and home-grown vegetables and eating. It inspires us to be healthy; but inspiration and scare-tactics are two quite different vehicles. This movie tends to spend the majority of its running time in the latter.

Score: ★★★

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