Tag Archives: Bong Joon-ho

Okja (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Okja</strong> (2017)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) Much-ballyhooed as a more ambitious kind of Netflix original project (as in: a major director’s film approved and financed by Netflix rather than them buying the distribution rights of an independent production), Okja also represents the latest in Bong Joon-ho’s typically scattershot blend of comedy, action, drama, horror and irony. Decently budgeted, Okja presupposes the existence of genetically modified super-pigs, leading to animal activists trying to prevent their exploitation by a heartless corporation. Obviously, Okja‘s anti-animal abuse themes are often undistinguishable from a recognizable vegan agenda, but don’t let that stop you from sampling what it has to offer. Okja itself is an often-delightful CGI creation, a creature bred for meat but designed for cuteness. That balance informs the rest of the film, as it veers between horror at animal exploitation (with a forced-breeding scene that’s as horrifying as anything else in movies this year) and good-natured charm at the creature and the efforts of a heroic ragtag band of activists at saving it. Intentionally, Okja itself is uncomfortably semi-sentient, bringing us to the uncanny valley of what’s dumb enough to eat even for confirmed carnivores. Tonal shifts are part of the Bong Joon-ho experience after all, and if his previous films have already been a bit challenging because of the way they go from one genre to another, Okja is a magnified instance of the same. The Anglo/Korean cast is wonderfully eclectic, with Ahn Seo-hyun in the lead role with Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito and Jake Gyllenhaal being some of the best-known names recognizable to a western audience. Challenging, uncomfortable, surprisingly enjoyable at times and just as surprisingly disgusting at others, Okja is not the kind of film to watch on a lark. But it’s a good thing that Netflix can get behind such unconventional projects.