Director: Louie Psihoyos.
Former professional UFC MMA fighter and Ultimate Fighter winner, James Wilks teams up with Oscar winning, documentary director Louis Psihoyos to give us an equally insightful and inspiring look into plant base diets; busting common everyday beliefs and myths regarding protein and nutrition source, whilst dismantling old stigmas and stereotypes, looking into the distorted history of how meat consumerism became the norm and how the advertising has ran away with an ideal, much like how they did with tobacco when smoking was something supposedly cool and even healthy for us to do.
It’s opens as a very personal mission as Wilks’ stumbles upon a path of discovery whilst on his road to recovery from a double knee injury; and thankfully delves deeper into the science and history of mankind as herbivores, which forms the very basis of this informative documentary. It explores a wide range of benefits of plant base diets compared to eating meat. There’s lots of why’s and how’s which gladly get answered by experts in the field and it also explores the positives to overall fitness, health problems like high cholesterol and blood pressure, recovery rates and even our sexual libido.
Wilks narrates this with a number of world leading athletes, doctors and scientists presenting their research and we even get to see some of the amazing results from their experiments. We hear from a group of world champions like Ultramarathoner, Scott Jurek; Australian 400m champion, Morgan Mitchell; 8x US cycle champion, Dotsie Bausch and record-breaking weightlifter, Kendrick Farris. Not forgetting to mention one of the world’s strongest, record-holding strongman and vegan badass Patrik Baboumian and of course, converted vegan, Arnold Schwarzenegger who helped produced this film alongside Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton and James Cameron.
Does it try to convince meat lovers to ditch the burgers and switch to salads? Not entirely, and I’ll explain more later, as the film may appear or be presented in that way; one sided; and this could be a conflated opinion of the documentary. Watching this for the second time, it’s interesting to note how few times the word vegan or even vegetarian is mentioned. But is it enough to change one’s mind? I think if you’re reading this, or planning on watching the film, you’re already part way there and this might just give you the nudge to at least try for a period. For me, it confirmed a lot of theories I previously researched as I had been toying with the idea of going vegan for quite some time. My friends just called me greedy when I became a flexitarian a few years back and a good portion of my diet was vegan. And yes. At the time of writing this I’m currently vegan and have been happily for a few months now. Still early days I’m sure but I’m not missing meat or dairy. But do I feel healthier?
To be honest, whilst I want to be healthier, even if you’re a practising vegan, if it isn’t balanced, you can still be unhealthy. What really persuaded me was the impact the meat and dairy industry has on climate change and the planet as a whole. Gladly this documentary spares some time exploring this and it’s shocking. I care about the planet and our future; and I’m consciously trying to minimise my contribution to current crisis. So, to continue carelessly eating meat and dairy whilst pretending it’s okay or necessary, makes me a hypocrite.
It does go on to explain how we got here, how corporate advertising made us, and continues to make us believe we need meat but not for our health or prosperity, but to constantly converse and feed the very ideal of consumerism that props up the largest industry and climate change contributor on the planet. Food. The science is all there and checks out, if you can be bothered to fact-check for yourself and not just take our word for it. The documentary neatly credits each of their sources, and whilst each of these revelations are shocking, they’re not to the level of disbelief; quite the opposite and actually all of it makes a lot of good sense and is easy to understand. You’ll see the amazing results from a 7 day rescue plan on the NY fire department and the tasty-looking plant-based dinners the NFL Tennessee Titans are eating, are just a couple of the incredible discoveries this film exposes.
As I was saying before; yes, it may appear very one sided and lacks any great counter alternatives. One argument that came from this was Chris Kresser, a paleo diet advocate that criticised and attempted to debunk this documentary along with Joe Rogan on his famed and popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. I say attempted because two weeks later, Rogan invited Wilks to go head-to-head with himself and Kresser, which resulted in a near 4 hour debate; Kresser conceding with Rogan too, praising Wilks and has even considered removing the previous episode. So, it’s not strictly saying you must only eat plants and that eating animals is evil. It’s simply doing what any educational curriculum should be doing; and that’s providing people with the best factual information that allows them to make their own informed choices. The science is there, the benefits are clearly there; so the choice is really yours to make.
Overall, beside the key issues, this is a brilliantly crafted documentary that’s equally entertaining and grounded. You can tell this is a labour of love as beside the heaps of scientific and medical research, there’s plenty of heart and emotion, and not just from Wilks himself. It’s well written, well presented with good, clear infographics and covers a lot of content for a 90minute feature. But most importantly, it was very much the push that made me decide to turn to full time veganism; or should I say a plant-based diet.
Running Time: 9
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
Extra Bonus Points: 10 for being the informative decider that I believe will make an impact on people’s lives and health.