Directed by Bong Joon-ho, Okja focuses on a young girl named Mija, who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend — a massive animal named Okja. The film stars Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Byun Hee-bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, and Andy Serkis, who provides the motion capture for Okja. With all the praise this film was received at the Cannes, I did not expect it to move me in such a manner. BONG JOON-HO MADE ME CRY ABOUT A CGI PIG. Now that I got that out of my system, come check out my review on the latest Netflix produced film.
The film was beautiful and entertaining, I was left compelled in all directions. There was a clear message on the ethics of eating meat and corporate greed, but the story was a bit far removed from reality to convince anyone of taking action against any issue in the real world. Ultimately it remains a conflict suspended in fiction, and even the film makes us feel sorrier for Okja than for other super pigs or animals.
The acting by Seo-Hyun Ahn was really great. She forms a really strong relationship with Okja and you can feel the powerful bond of nature between them. The subtle sarcasm and slices of Korean culture that the director puts in there are funny. The first chase scene in Korea is done really well, the director did a great job filming Seo-Hyun. It added a lot to her character and was fun to watch. Everyone is talking about Jake and Tilda. I love them, I think they were great, but can we talk about Paul Dano for a moment. That guy is so underappreciated. Yes, I say that with the full knowledge of his body of work and all his nominations. I still think he should be given more credit. His performance in Okja is subtle but powerful. I think he perfectly portrayed the good and the bad of radical activism.
There were cultural elements that I felt played poorly though. There was blatant CEO worship that seemed better suited to the Hunger Games universe than real life, which I feel undermines the gritty reality of the message. There were also many scenes that happened without consequence or that emerged without much resistance. The breeding/rape scene, for instance, was shown and then what?. Also, the A.L.F. seem to disrupt the parade with relative ease, and the police with batons don’t seem to show up until after much ruckus has already been caused.
Lastly, the messaging seems relegated to Fantasyland as it doesn’t deal plot-wise with its lack of realism. It is never discussed whether it is truly less ethical to grow a larger pig in order to kill a smaller number of pigs to provide the same meat. Likewise, the possibility of producing genetically modified animals without the super pig’s intelligence isn’t discussed. It just happens and we’re supposed to feel a lot about that’s suspended quite a bit. There are plenty of tricks that could have been used to explain away this strange universe where super pigs just happen to be as intelligent as humans.
That said, I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone. It’s entertaining, and at the very least will get some people thinking about whether their food is ethically sourced. And given its “fun” nature, it wasn’t plastered with distasteful product placement (like so many titles lately, to my vexation). It’s about as pure a movie you’ll find today, and that is enough reason to give this a watch. This was essentially a live-action Miyazaki film. The characters were over the top, the dialogue was very similar to something like Castle in the Sky. I don’t think the movie is shaming meat eaters into becoming vegan. It’s against the unethical ways the industry operates and the unethical way the people who oppose them (Paul Dano was against the unethical thing Steven did, and the one guy obsessed with lowering his carbon footprint is shown a being stupid).
SUPERSAM RATING: ★★★★