DOOOOOOOOM. Are you aware that food in this country is all kinds of messed up? Probably you are, in which case Food, Inc., a 101-level documentary about What's Wrong and Why We Should Freak Out, functions mostly as an emotional wringer and appetite suppressant. It is very effective. Here is a farmer sitting at his kitchen table, tired and defeated: Monsanto, insanely, won't let him use his own crop seeds and help others do the same, as farmers have done since time immemorial. Here is a mother who lost her child to E. coli from a fast-food burger: She determinedly walks through the halls of justice, though it's been years and no headway has been made. (Bonus, repeated several times: home movies of the toddler playing on a lakeshore before he died.) Those chickens that live smashed together in giant dark hangars, bred to have breasts so big they couldn't walk even if they had room? Present, and plenty are prematurely deceased, all limp and feathery. Assembly lines of meat-processing plants are accompanied by foreboding music. Hidden-camera footage shows hogs being shoved en masse into death chambers.
Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan—eminently reasonable, concerned, well-spoken—are interviewed. Joel Salatin, an organic rancher in Virginia, testifies a little wild-eyed, stealing the show. The experts and the facts speak, loud and clear and plenty scary, for themselves; it's a small shame that Food, Inc. doesn't just let them. The clever title sequence is as emptily gorgeous and strangely moving as Andreas Gursky's famous 99-cent store photograph, but when it segues into guys in suits marching across a field toward ominous, smoke-spewing factories, it cheapens the (extremely important) cause. Same with the jaunty tune that accompanies the organic yogurt factory—it'd be terrifying, too, if it had the meat-music. When you've got Schlosser eating a burger and talking you through it, you don't need anything close to propaganda. That being said, everyone should go to www.foodincmovie.com/get-involved.php and do the "10 Simple Things You Can Do to Change Our Food System," because otherwise: DOOOOOOOOM.