Sunday, July 16, 2017

Now on Netflix: Okja (2017)

Okja (2017) - Directed by Bong Joon Ho; Written by Bong Joon Ho, Jon Ronson; Starring Seo-Hyun Ahn, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal, Steven Yeun, Shirley Henderson.

By Kenny Howell

Bong Joon Ho probably bites off a bit more than he can chew, but still brings a bonkers tale about a super pig farming program, and the little girl that just wants to keep her beloved pet.

If you can't tell, it's hard to encapsulate just what Okja is about in a sentence. The longer version is that Tilda Swinton plays a greedy business CEO of a company called Mirando, who starts a program to farm a breed of super pig in locations all over the world. After 10 years, one of those pigs will be the focus of a grand celebration as the roll out of the pigs as a food for purchase begins.

One of those pigs is Okja, who is taken care of by a little girl named Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn). They live in a remote mountain town in South Korea, and Okja is pretty much Mija's best friend. When the representatives from Mirando arrive at her home, Mija doesn't realize that something bigger is going on. They are going to take Okja from her, first for the celebration, then to be slaughtered and sold. They take Okja while Mija is away, and the chase starts to get Okja back.

Early in the chase, Mija meets an animal rights sort of terrorist group, led by an enigmatic Paul Dano, who hatch a plan to bring down the Mirando Corporation, who they believe is up to some nefarious things behind the scenes. Unfortunately, that still means that Okja has to go to New York City, which could risk his life.

There is quite a bit going on here as you can tell. Joon Ho is approaching several different subjects here from greed and capitalism, to the blind spots of some animal rights groups, to factory farming. Not everything quite lands like his brilliant previous effort Snowpiercer. But he definitely has such an original, bizarre style that his film seems like something completely on its own. Just the idea of a super pig, which really looks more pygmyish through excellent special effects, is obviously something you don't see everyday. Plus Tilda Swinton being crazy is Tilda Swinton being crazy, and the world needs more of that. Bong Joon Ho knows that, and we are all the better for it.

Okja is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ***

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