Okja - Review
Okja is a new Netflix Original Film by visionary filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer). It premiered on today and first impressions gave me a feeling that it was like nothing I've ever seen before. Well I was correct. Okja was a wonderfully heartfelt film that deserves to be seen by everyone with a Netflix subscription. Read on to see some more in depth thoughts.
Some of this movie was hard to watch. But that is not because it was terrible, it was because some of the themes that it dealt with tugged at the heart strings and made you think about what is actually going on in the real world.
Okja is a super pig sent manufactured by a mega-corporation. It was sent to a farm to live for 10 years then it would be returned to the corporation in order to be sent to slaughter. In that 10 year period, a little girl, Mija, (played brilliantly by Seo-Hyun Ahn - remember that name, she should have a blossoming career in the future) befriended Okja. She was told by her grandfather that Okja was hers forever, so when the Mirando Corporation takes her away, she goes on a journey to get her best friend back with the help of an animal rights organization.
It is done so well, you actually believe Okja is a real creature, and that this actually happened. That is why it is so heartbreaking in some parts. Bong Joon-ho is masterful at telling the stories he wants to tell. The all-star cast including Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Paul Dano certainly helps, but it is the material they get to use that really shines.
This movie certainly makes you think, and while this is about an animal that doesn't exist, the lessons preached here certainly hit a chord. It makes you think about the food industry, specifically the meat industry and how large corporations take advantage of the public trust to turn a profit. That can be applied to things outside of the food industry, so it fits on many levels.
Most stories whether they are science fiction, comedy, or fantasy have some sort of real world reason for existing. The facade isn't heavy here, it is a thinly veiled message they are preaching, but it is still an enjoyable movie. Really preachy movies don't always work because a lot of people will disagree with them. But Bong Joon-ho has never shied away from that. Plus, with an animal as adorable as Okja even if you don't believe in the message being portrayed, it should still tug at your heart strings just from a fictional story sense. Imagine if Okja was your dog or your cat. That puts this movie through the lens you should approach it from and then you can let it tear out your heart and teach you something.
Sometimes the tone is a bit off. In some scenes it is exactly what its supposed to be. In other scenes it feels like a satire, which would work if it was like that through the whole movie but it switches between that and a serious drama. That hurts the movie a little but not enough to not get the point across.
Don't get me wrong, this is a hopeful movie. It shows what people will do to fight for what they believe in and for who they love. It shows that fighting darkness with light will never end, and that there are still good people on this planet.
This movie was not on my radar until very recently but hopefully this will put it on your radar. It is a great movie and needs to be seen. It makes you uncomfortable when it supposed to and makes you feel good when it is supposed to. It checks all the right boxes and while it does lay out what it is trying to do right on the surface, the attempt is so heartfelt that it doesn't seem as on the nose as it actually is.
While this wasn't as good as Snowpiercer (which I highly recommend), Joon-ho's last movie, it was better than the last Netflix Original movie, War Machine which was still good but not lacking any of the heart that this had. (You can read my review of that movie here.)
Both this and Snowpiercer has cemented me as a Bong Joon-ho fan and I look forward to whatever he does next.
Okja is available to stream now only on Netflix.