A heart-warming commentary on the food industry and one girl’s fight to save her best friend, Okja is step forward in digital release films.
Okja is a Netflix production by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. The film revolves around Okja, a Super Pig born from the first genetically modified Super Pig and raised by a farmer and his grand-daughter, Mija, in the South Korean mountains as part of an experiment/competition. After ten years, the Mirando Corporation – the owners of the Super Pig program come to take Okja, who has become the best Super Pig, and turn her in to food.
Mija follows the company to a holding facility to free her friend, she meets and is aided by the A.L.F. (Animal Liberation Front) who are trying to expose Mirando for the injustices and crimes they have committed against the Super Pigs.
Ahn Seo-hyun delivers a fantastic performance as Mija, a strong and brave character, and portrays the love and the connection between her and Okja beautifully.
Paul Dano plays Jay, the leader of the A.L.F and brings some nice complexities to his character. There is something about Jay and the A.L.F (including Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Daniel Henshall and Devon Bostick) that felt very Wes Anderson-esque, the characters all had their little quirks yet were all committed to the cause. The animal rights group at some points felt like they were in a different movie, something slightly hyper-realistic.
Tilda Swinton plays Mirando Corporation CEO, Lucy Mirando a slightly bizarre character who is driven to make this Super Pig scheme of hers succeed. Swinton has an amazing diversity in the many characters she plays, Lucy Mirando is no exception. She was a character that felt like she was never quite real and that’s the point. She has a facade of a caring and exciting CEO but behind closed doors wants only to differentiate herself from her father and her sister and will lie and bumble her way to that goal.
Now lets get to one of the standouts of Okja, Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. Johnny Wilcox. At the inception of the Super Pig Program, Johnny Wilcox, a TV star zoologist was attached to work with the farmers and eventually judge who would be crowned the best Super Pig. Now, ten years later, he has fallen out of the spotlight and is now a washed up pawn for the Mirando Corporation who has had to make some moral compromises in the time he has worked for the company. Towards the end of the film, the reality really sets in on Wilcox bringing out a perfect example of why Gyllenhaal should play the Joker in the DCEU instead of Jared Leto.
The visual effects used to make Okja were fantastic, It was believable for majority of the film. She’s a cute Super Pig, so are her friends, the Super Pigs are sweet and passive creatures, which makes the Mirando Corporation’s practices all the more heartbreaking.
Okja is a unique film that wants you to think about where your food comes from and see through the spin that multi-national corporations try to sell you. With out revealing too much about the plot of the film, it’s also an example that while these companies may hit road blocks, the corporate machine can still carry on.
This film was produced by Netflix and has faced some criticism from traditional cinemas and critics before the film had even been seen.
Okja had its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2017. The film was met with boos, mixed with applause, during its premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, once the Netflix logo appeared on screen and again during a technical glitch (which got the movie projected in an incorrect aspect ratio for its first seven minutes). The festival later issued an apology to the filmmakers. However, despite the studio’s negative response, the film itself received a four-minute standing ovation.
This is a step in the right direction for digital releases, there are many more notable directors and studios getting behind this sort of release and we can expect to see more high-quality original films coming out on Netflix.
Okja is a nice film with a talented cast and a big heart. It has a message but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Purely and simply, its a bout a young girl who will stop at nothing to save her best friend.
Okja: Above Average