From Netflix and writer/director on Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) comes Okja. Starring Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito and Byun Hee-bong the film is now streaming exclusively on Netflix!
For 10 idyllic years, young Mija has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja – a massive animal and an even bigger friend – at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where an image-obsessed and self-promoting CEO has big plans for Mija’s dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission.
Okja is every single genre of film – ever – crammed into a two-hour bizarre fairy tale made for adults, reminding us of classic Disney films as if they were remade by Quentin Tarantino or David Fincher. Bong Joon-ho has followed up his modern sci-fi classic Snowpiercer with an even stranger affair about a small girl trying to rescue her super pig Okja before she’s taken to a slaughterhouse. We begin the film just spending a good chunk of time seeing Mija and Okja go on adventures in the Korean wilderness. These scenes were fascinating and heart-warming, which makes the future events of the film even harder to stomach. We know it’s coming – we know the shit is going to hit the fan eventually, but that doesn’t make the gut-punch any easier when we see what this horrible corporation is doing to these poor animals… Yes, Okja isn’t the only one of her kind. As Tilda Swinton’s character aptly puts – “They have to taste fucking good!”
Okja bounces ‘sometimes seamlessly’ between physical comedy ,where a super pig is shitting on a villain, to moments that made my eyes swell up and then drop my jaw in horror. Jake Gyllenhaal does such an amazing job getting into character as the twisted TV zoologist who starts to lose his mind halfway through and does things that are so awful and so painful to see unfold onscreen, that I can’t help but think he deserves another Oscar nomination. This is the best he’s been since Nightcrawler – Gyllenhaal is unleashed in Okja. He makes Tilda Swinton seem tame in comparison — and that’s a tough feat to accomplish.
After Okja is taken by the company, little Mija meets up with a “terrorist” organisation called the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and it’s here she meets characters played by Paul Dano, Steven Yeun and Lily Collins. Bong Joon-ho is definitely poking fun at organisations like PETA and the culture of over-sensitivity with these people but you also can’t help but cheer for them, because as annoying as they can be – they’re also really trying to do the right thing. The tattoo that Steven Yeun’s character gets at one point is hysterical… Or the conversation one of the ALF guys has when he almost faints because he refuses to eat corporate food products. It’s all too funny and it’s stuff like that which makes Okja such a unique movie — it literally has everything in it. From action, amazing CGI, to what I can only describe as horror – Bong Joon-ho is spastic but the major point and message of the film still manages to shine all the way through thanks to sharp direction, performances and an original concept.
If you’re familiar with Asian film/TV – and you can look past the odd moments of comedy that can pop up at bizarre points in the plot, then Okja will flow just fine with you. Some viewers might be too confused though at the tonal shifts throughout. I wasn’t kidding when I said this feels like a classic Disney film twisted into an R-Rated fairy tale for adults. I’m happy Netflix took the chance and grabbed this film, otherwise I’d never have almost cried over a big ass super pig who just wants to snuggle with a small Asian child in the woods.
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