Netflix is back making its own movies and this time it’s aiming for the big time with Okja, written and directed by visionary writer/director Joon-ho Bong.
Okja is a pig, a really, really big pig. Engineered by the Mirando corporation headed up Lucy and her twin sister Nancy, both played by Tilda Swinton.
Lucy Mirando’s big idea is to send these genetically modified pigs around the world and, in ten years time, one of the farmers who was given a pig, will be crowned the winner of a superpig competition.
Fast forward ten years and we find Okja in a sleepy Korean mountain being looked after by Mija, Seo-Hyun Ahn (Monster, The Village (TV)) and her uncle played by Hee-bong Byun (The Host, The Game).
Mija and Okja have grown up together and developed a very special bond, like that you would normally associate between man and dog.
One day some Mirando employees turn up including Johnny Wilcox, Jake Gyllenhaal, a wildlife TV presenter and ‘face’ of Mirando. He’s been around the world inspecting all the pigs and settles on Okja as the best and whisks the pig to America.
On route ALF, the Animal Liberation Front, led by Jay, Paul Dano, kidnap Okja before allowing Mirando to take her back. What follows is a PR attempt by Mirando, a liberation by ALF and all the while Mija just wants to take Okja home.
Obviously, Okja is Joon-ho Bongs (Snowpiercer, The Host) take on the whole meat industry, GMO and our very real need for more food to serve the ever-increasing population.
However, this message isn’t rammed down your throat but is very much front and centre.
Okja is wonderfully directed, as if we’d expect anything else, and is well written. Swinton is brilliant as both Mirando’s, Dano is delightful as always and Seo-Hyun Ahn makes us care for this CGI pig in ways you probably don’t think possible.
As for Gyllenhaal, well, I’m going to leave that one to you. It’s either an amazing performance, or it’s total tripe, I haven’t made my mind up yet. Whichever, it looks like he had a lot of fun doing it.
As well as the very serious and very clear message running throughout Okja, Bong has also managed to throw in some light comedic touches and some less subtle fart gags…yes really.
The animal itself is masterful CGI work and, whilst it’s a tad obvious what’s going to occur, it’s still a fun trip to be part of.
Okja is a lovely movie, it perhaps suffers from being a tad too long (just over two-hours), and most of this feels like the early setup to make us fall in love with Okja, just in case showing us how animals are killed and processed isn’t enough at the end.
However, this shouldn’t detract from a great movie that, whilst not really providing any answers, does ask some pretty serious questions.