Okja (2017) Movie Review

By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –

The Mirando Corporation claims it has discovered a new species of super pig. However, you find out this pig was developed in one of their laboratories. They use this new species to develop 25 other pigs and will let them grow for 10 years. At the end of 10 years the farmer who has grown the largest pig will get to have their pig shown off at a big celebration in New York. A farmer and his daughter in South Korea end up winning. However, Mija the daughter doesn’t want Okja taken away so she travels to Seoul to stop the Mirando Corporation. While Okja travels to Seoul and then to New York she is captured by the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) who want to expose the real Mirando Corporation to the world. It’s a pulse-pounding trip that will have you on the edge of your seat, laughing & crying all at the same time.

A Toast

What I love about Bong Joon-ho’s films is they always have a concise message about important social and societal issues. The Host spoke about environmental issues and the dangers of not being cautious with how we treat the environment. Snowpiercer spoke about the treatment of people in different classes and whether it is ok to treat people differently or treat them as lesser because they have less or more. Okja is no different; this time his message is very clear about eating animals and whether it is ok to eat an animal. Aren’t we all God’s creatures? And if so, why are some eaten and treated to inhumane conditions so some of us can have bacon? It also has commentary about the fast-food industry. I read that Joon-ho became a a temporary vegan after visiting a slaughterhouse in Colorado. He wanted the slaughterhouse scene to be terrifying and to do so he needed to be exposed to the real thing. Bong Joon-ho is a very important modern filmmaker because he is able to concisely convey his message and is able to tell it to the world.

The acting is amazing in Okja, from Seo-Hyun Ahn as Mija to Paul Dano as the leader of ALF with quiet reserve to Jake Gyllenhaal as Johnny Wilcox, a neurotic TV Animal scientist who seems almost unhinged and had me laughing nearly every time he was on screen. However, of course Tilda Swinton is brilliant as Lucy and Nancy Mirando. Swinton is a true character actor who can carry a film at the same time. She seamlessly becomes a different character in every film she does. I like to think she is part chameleon because most times she becomes almost unrecognizable and she always pulls it off. I would expect nothing less from any of these actors and they all delivered. It is incredibly well acted.

Not many films can alternate tones between uproarious laughter and true sadness. Bong Joon-ho was able to manage several tonal shifts in Okja and not lose track of the overall tone of the film. I’ve seen several films that can’t figure out whether they want to be a comedy or drama, or action or comedy. Bong’s ability to have genuine comedic moments in a drama with moments that will tear your heart apart is unmatched.

Also the VFX is stunning in this film. They collaborated with Erik De Boer, who won an Oscar for the sensational work on Life of Pi. I was amazed with his work of Life of Pi, never being able to tell when they used a real tiger and when they used a CGI one. Okja looked real the entire film. It really helped when we finally arrive at the Slaughterhouse, it feels like we are watching real life animals being slaughtered. If the VFX were any less it would’ve distracted and lessened the impact of the film that Bong was striving for. However, the effects team nailed this film. I hope Okja is honored at the Oscars with a visual effects nomination.

Verdict

Okja is definitely the best thing Netflix has produced. It’s a blockbuster you can watch from your house, which is great because you’re going to need some tissues. It’s equal parts hilarious and horrifyingly sad. Okja is another home run from Bong Joon-ho and everyone should find some time to watch this film.

Okja (2017) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Okja’s named is said.

Take a Drink: every time you cry or almost cry.

Do a Shot: for every super pig murdered.

Pound a Beer: for Gyllenhaal when his character is drunk and pouring his heart out.

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