30th Jun2017

‘Okja’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jungeun Lee, Hee-Bong Byun, Shirley Henderson | Written and Directed by Bong Joon Ho

okja-poster

In a world where we are running out of food and our population is increasing, finding an answer to the problem is something the world is working on. Okja shows the dark side of solving the problem, where meat becomes a currency that can be manufactured for economic gain.

Mija (An Seo-Hyun) is a girl who has grown up in the mountains of South Korea with her best friend Okja. A massive “super pig” created by a the Mirando Corporation, it is not long before they decide to take it away and show it off to the world. Once Mija discovers this though, it leads to her giving chase around the world to save her beloved friend.

What Bong Joon Ho has created with Okja is something different, but at the same time familiar. Taking a young child and putting it with a cute out of this world creature is something that has worked before. We just have to look at E.T for that. If you were hoping for a Spielberg-esque adventure of a girl and her super pig though, you don’t exactly get it.

An Seo-Hyun is the star of the film, even with top performances of the likes of Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Giancarlo Esposito, and Paul Dano. She gives the emotional impact that we as the audience can empathise with, and she gives the strength. While the world is in chaos around Okja and Mija, she is the one who does her job, and that is to protect her best friend.

What is also impressive is how much we fall in love with Okja, which is of course our downfall. We are forced to see just how the creature and its kin are mistreated, and how the public image created by the Mirando Corporation is fake. The problem also is though, that this is where the film becomes a little heavy-handed.

Not only do we see the heartbreaking fields of the creatures being sent to slaughter, but we also see the other evils that man do. Jake Gyllenhall’s Johnny Wilcox the “animal lover” may be comical, but his actions show the cruelty that man can do. These actions of course stem from his treatment by his employers, mostly Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) but they just further emphasises the lie. He is in fact not an animal lover, just a money hungry “star” creating an image to find fame.

What Okja boils down to at its simplest is a very scathing examination of capitalism and the evils of corporate America. It isn’t really hidden from the audience that the Mirando family is basically a very Trump like creation. We have Lucy who tries to project a humanitarian image while being a psychopath trying to escape her sister’s shadow. Nancy (the sister) is the even colder side of the company, she will make a profit, and she won’t hide just how evil she is. The only thing she cares about is money.

Where Okja succeeds is that while it may stray away from the story of Okja and Mija at times, and goes a little too dark, it always finds its way back. Even in the face of the cold corporations of the world, there is still the shining light of friendship and that is what the audiences will relate to. Just beware the fact that Bong Joon ho  isn’t scared of breaking your heart in the process of telling the story though.

****½  4.5/5

Okja is available on Netflix now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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