Friday, June 30, 2017

Okja Netflix Movie Review

Okja (2017)
Watch Okja on Netflix
Written by: Joon-ho Bong (story), Joon-ho Bong, Jon Ronson (screenplay)
Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Steven Yeun, Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins
Rating: TV-MA

A young girl attempts to prevent a massive company from kidnapping her best friend, a giant super pig named Okja.This Netflix exclusive will get a theatrical release in the U.S. and South Korea.

This is easily one of Netflix's best movies. Okja explores the line between commodity and pet. This strays a bit too far over the top at times, but that often serves to generate amazing sequences. Creating a new species for the movie was a clever way to better convey the point about animal cruelty.
This crams three movies into one with a big corporation, the main story of a girl and her pet, and an animal rights group.
Watch it.

Joon-ho Bong continues to tackle social issues with his latest Okja. In this he broadly tackles ignorance and corporate corruption. His previous movie Snowpiercer (read my review), picked at the class divide.
While this is a very good movie, the rave reviews and buzz left me somewhat disappointed. It's a good movie, but due to reviews I was expecting a bit more.
This movie rips corporations for lying to consumers. The Mirando corporation introduces a new species as a public relations overhaul, with new head Lucy (Tilda Swinton) criticizing her father's business ethics. It's all subterfuge. Lucy is just as bad, but the way Lucy acts takes this to parody levels. It was hard to take her seriously. It seemed like there was more to the character than what we see but it isn't explored. Fellow Mirando exec Frank (Giancarlo Esposito) seemed to waver between puppet master and yes man, but ultimately doesn't do much.
Jake Gyllenhaal is the face of Mirando, Doctor Johnny, a television host with a show about animals. Gyllenhaal does a great job, picking a great role. I'm always impressed by the roles he chooses. He'll do top billed or cameo roles, always picking intriguing characters.

Joon-ho Bong's movies often stretch suspension of disbelief for plot payoff or cool sequences. The most baffling part of the film is how Mija's grandfather even got the super pig Okja. Twenty-six pigs were given to qualified farmers around the world to raise them, but grandpa doesn't seem that qualified. On top of that he lies to Mija, not telling her that Mirando corporation will take Okja back. For some reason he wastes his money on a solid gold pig statue that he thinks will somehow suffice. Grandpa isn't hitting on much, but all of these issues do serve a plot purpose. Grandpa's a mountain man which gives us a forest backdrop where we first meet Okja. The golden pig comes into play later too.
Miradno wants to make bacon of the pig, the ultimate purpose of the super pig program. Mirando claims it's about reducing hunger, but it's just about the money.

Grandpa's lie and Mirando's acquisition of Okja sets the plot into motion, though I wonder how they took the pig without a fight. Considering the terrain and the pig's size, Okja easily could have escaped or fled.

This movie mostly serves as a take down of corporations. I don't see this as a repudiation of people that eat meat, but it is urging you to check the source of your food. Ignorance isn't an excuse. Corporations are only able to sustain these practices due to consumers paying them to do so.
This movie shows you the extremes. The corporations, the animal liberation group, and Okja. Going to these extremes often veers into parody though. One of the animal liberation member refuses to eat any food as it all comes at the cost of someone or something else.
Okja's story weathers the over the top manipulation the best, as does any story about a child and her pet.

The movie is a bit manipulative, which goes hand in hand with making the point. These super pigs are much smarter and self aware than they have any right to be. The more human you make them, the more sympathy they generate.
Regardless, killing farms exist. The entire movie brings us to that location, and it's harrowing. Using cows or pigs would lessen the impact. They aren't smart enough to anthropomorphize. Most people just can't connect to a cow. Using a dog is a step too far. You just can't harm a dog in a movie, and no one wants to see a movie with people eating dog. Creating a new animal was the answer to bridge the gap.

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