‘Okja’ is the latest original film from Netflix. Highly anticipated due to it’s star studded cast and its director Bong Joon-ho, who previously helmed ‘Snowpiercer’. The film follows the company known as the Mirando Corporation who have breed a species of super pig. Distributed around the world to top farmers, after ten years in these locations one will be chosen as the ultimate super pig.
The film begins with an energetic presentation from the Mirando CEO, Lucy Mirando, played by the wonderful Tilda Swinton. The opening credits are woven into this scene creating a lot of distraction from the content of this presentation. I found it a rather frantic way to include these making it hard to really get settled into the movie. The film then jumps ten years into the future where we meet the titular super pig, Okja and young farm girl Mija. The story stays with this pair for quite some time, obviously allowing the audience to witness their close relationship. However, it lingers a little too long here. I bought the relationship pretty quickly and felt a quicker pace would have helped the narrative as a whole. Thankfully these minor issues are only present in the beginning of the movie and once the story really gets into gear it’s very enjoyable. It acts as somewhat of a social commentary for many topics including the meat industry, animal rights & activism. It’s thought provoking and will encourage many interesting discussions. Presenting all of this in an entertaining way only strengthens this element and the film as a whole.
Another reason why the film is so entertaining is the casting choices and subsequent performances. Jake Gyllenhaal’s first proper appearance in the movie drew me right back in just as I was loosing interest. He plays the eccentric TV animal expert, Johnny Wilcox. He’s brilliantly bonkers coming dangerously close to being too over the top but never actually tipping that balance. All of his scenes are effortlessly engaging. Similarly, Swinton has a similar effect will her outlandish portrayal of her character. For me, the film was always at it’s best when one, or both, of these performers were centre stage.. There are numerous other talented stars featured too, including Paul Dano, Lily Collins & child actress Ahn Seo-hyun who all add quality to the picture. Let’s not forget the focus of the film though, super pig Okja. The work done to create this character is nothing short of spectacular. We’ve seen amazing creations like this before but the detail and real life likeness should never fail to amaze audiences. One scene in particular where Gyllenhaal’s characters runs his hands through the hairs on Okja’s skin is especially impressive, allowing viewers to really appreciate what’s been created here.
So whilst I found the beginning of the film to be slightly troublesome I quickly forgave it it’s flaws. The performances from the big named cast consistently demanded my attention and entertained me. Watching these characters interact was a joy. The real strength in the picture though is it’s handling of it’s issues. No matter what your view on the issues discussed it should give you further food for thought. When a film can present such a challenging narrative in an entertaining way it’s a rare treat that should be cherished by all those who encounter it and ‘Okja’ is one of these occasions.
Rating – 8/10
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