Saturday, September 9, 2017

Movie Review: "Okja" (2017)

Director: Bong Joon-ho
Year: 2017
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

The Mirando corporation has developed a super-pig that they have given to farmers from around the world to raise for 'The 'Best Super Pig Competition' to be held in 10 years time. A South Korean girl named Mija, who has raised her super-pig Okja from the time it was a piglet, isn't so willing to let her go. Now that Mirando has come to collect, Mija fights to bring Okja home in an effort to prevent her from being made into jerky.

"Okja" is a Netflix original film from South Korean writer/director Bong Joon-ho, who is known for his films "The Host" and "Snowpiercer." It stars Seo-Hyun Ahn as Mija, a young girl who has spent her entire life raising a Mirando corporation super-pig since it was just a piglet. Now, after 10 years together, Mirando is coming to collect their super-pig, which she has named Okja. Mija will do whatever it takes to get Okja back home safely once it is taken away. This film boasts a strong supporting cast featuring the likes of Tilda Swinton, Giancarlo Esposito, Shirley Henderson, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who all make up different members of the villainous Mirando corporation. Joining them are Paul Dano, Steve Yeun, Lily Collins, Daniel Henshall, and Devon Bostick, who make up the members of A.L.F., the Animal Liberation Front, a group of like-minded individuals who fight to free imprisoned animals.

There are many moving parts to "Okja." It starts out as what feels like a light, fantastical adventure about a young girl and her pet super-pig. The two spend the first portion of the movie in the mountainous forests of South Korea living their lives and having fun together. The light comedic tone drastically shifts once the Mirando corporation shows up to take back their prized pig. At that time, "Okja" switches to what feels more like an action-oriented heist flick before it shifts once more into its darker, more horrific conclusion. These massive tonal shifts may be off-putting to some viewers, though we felt they were balanced very well by director Bong Joon-ho. Just remember no matter how cute the beginning may be, this movie is definitely the equivalent of an R-rated film. It has some very unsettling scenes towards the end of its run time that are hard to watch. It also has a strong political message. It is clear Mirando is meant to represent Monsanto, the things the company does get so disturbing at times, it may drive certain viewers to think twice before eating their next hamburger. BigJ and I made the mistake of watching this flick while eating bacon breakfast burritos, and to be honest, we felt sort of bad about it when all was said and done.

We were very taken by the acting in this movie. Bong Joon-ho allows his cast to play some really interesting, over the top characters here. Seo-Hyun Ahn is great for such a young actress and we can't wait to see more of her in the future. She has some very emotional moments in her quest to reunite with Okja. Tilda Swinton is brilliant (as always) and takes on two roles that have polar opposite characteristics. We have heard some criticism about Jake Gyllenhaal's excessive performance, but we felt it fit the character and spastic tone of the film quite well. Finally, there is Okja herself. She is an amazingly animated creature that looks like a combination between a hippopotamus, a pig, and a manatee. The special effects used to create this massive character are expertly done, and this animal feels real despite being CGI. To be honest, this creature is more expressive than some of the real life actors we've seen perform in movies on the regular.

"Okja" is an odd but wholly engaging film full of fantastic performances, a lot of heart, excellent special effects, and an engaging premise with interesting, sometimes terrible and seedy characters. We do recommend checking it out if you like unique movies with a message.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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