...a powerfully engrossing experience.

Of all the literary genres to adapt into a cinematic work, investigative journalism (or, if you will, muckraking) isn’t one that should work. By drawing on the main themes from Eric Schlosser’s book and translating them into a dramatic construct, Richard Linklater’s filmic interpretation is an exercise in simplicity.

Central to the plot is Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear), an executive of the fictional Mickey’s fast food chain, dispatched to investigate exactly why independent reports of his company’s produce are so damning. A series of interconnected narratives unveil around Anderson’s investigation.

Clearly no viewer who pays to see what amounts to an expose of the dangers of the fast food industry, will be massively surprised by what Linklater depicts. But conversely, Fast Food Nation’s worth is in bringing a subject to a wider audience that dryer studies make unpalatable. Applying such themes to human interest stories is the making of the film; a construct made all the successful with fine performances.

Ironically one of Fast Food Nation’s weaker elements is the sense of emotive manipulation that the plot’s permanent worst-case scenario enshrouds upon its audience. A movie with a central theme of exploitation that actually exploits its own viewers may prove to be a dichotomy too far for some.

Ultimately the film’s myriad of threads fail to connect to create a thoroughly linear whole. To address this as a key flaw is to miss the essence of an industrial process that neatly compartmentalises its methods of production, distribution and service. To damn the fast food industry’s practices, Schlosser hit upon problems in each stage of the system and that’s exactly what Linklater has done by building his film around a series of vignettes. To create a film based around Schlosser’s findings is an achievement in itself, but Linklater has made Fast Food Nation a powerfully engrossing experience.

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