For Fans Of: The Host, Snowpiercer, Train to Busan, Babe, The Iron Giant
Okja is the story of a young girl named Mija (An Seo Hyun) who faces the threat of a multi-national company trying to kidnap her best friend, Okja, a playful and gentle giant super pig. Directed Bong Joon is known for his quirky films The Host and Snowpiercer, and for mixing genres, such as humour and horror, as he does here. Okja is a multilingual comedy/monster mélange with a stellar cast that makes for a very fun yet heartbreaking motion picture.
‘Okja is the next film in a long line of Netflix-produced feature lengths. Originally premiering at Cannes Film Festival 2017, Okja gained critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the coveted Palme d’Or. Premiering in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Okja is the kind of film that creates a real sense of purpose, I felt a real bond to the characters and the message that the film puts across is thought-provoking and relevant. Whilst some fans of Bong Joon Ho might say that this film feels surprisingly linear and safe, Okja is a much more accessible film than past outings and is a gem in its own right.
Okja is originally brought into the world by the Mirando Corporation, a sort of Google-esque world dominating multi-national that portray a far different image behind closed doors than in the public eye. The film begins in 2007 with CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) unveiling a ‘super pig competition’ in order to promote the companies’ new found natural meat source that plans to end all famine. Fast forward to 2017 and Okja is the largest super pig, running around the mountain tops of South Korea with her loving owner Mija. As the story unfolds, Mija must travel to New York City in order to save Okja from the evil wrath of Lucy Mirando and the Mirando Corporation.
Okja plays host to a fantastic cast. Tilda Swinton is terrifying as the overly nice CEO, Paul Dano is the leader of the hilarious animal rights group that helps Mija on her quest and Jake Gyllenhaal is at his sociopathic best as Johnny Wilcox, the animal-lover and face of the Mirando Corporation. As films in 2017 go Okja is amongst the best so far, an all-around thrill fest with laugh out loud moments and a relevant and frightening depiction of the meat-industry. That being said the real shining light here is Okja herself. This fun-loving monster pig is a gem of an animal and creates the connection needed for the film to pass its genuinely harrowing and difficult message. Without ruining too much, the ending is the bittersweet realisation of the world we currently live in and makes this film linger for much longer than its run-time.
Okja is the first straight-to-Netflix film that can be discussed as a potential film of the year, pushing ‘straight-to-Netflix’ as a genuine distribution method that is in no way comparable to the ‘straight-to-DVD’ fad of the 00’s. The film is vibrant with a strong message of friendship and adventure with the villains and the main message as a whole about the cruelties of the meat-industry coming across as terrifyingly real. With Okja being available for streaming on Netflix worldwide from the 28 June, I have no reason not to recommend this film. Bong Joon Ho has created a super pig, as loveable as Babe, if not more so, and one that I’m not afraid to say brought a tear to my eye. Okja is a must-see.
Okja releases 28/06/2017 on Netflix