Film Review – Okja (2017)

Title – Okja (2017)

Director – Joon-ho Bong (Mother)

Cast – Seo-Hyun Ahn, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito

Plot – Young South Korean girl Mija (Hyun Ahn) must traverse the globe in hope of reuniting with her best friend and genetically modified super pig Okja, who’s a product of the nefarious corporation Mirando, that’s run by evil CEO Lucy Mirando (Swinton).

“We’re extremely proud of our achievements. We’re very hardworking business-people”

Review by Eddie on 31/07/2017

Over the period of a decade, Korean based Joon-ho Bong has established himself as one of the most unique directors working in the industry today.

From his Seoul based monster hit The Host, through to his hugely divisive Sci-Fi Snowpiercer from 2013 (a film that you should check out right away if you haven’t already), Bong knows how to tell a story and develop visuals and knows how to do so without a care for being run of the mill.

Continuing on this tradition of the odd yet wondrous, Bong’s new Netflix and Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B’s film Okja, that had a controversial screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, has burst into lounge rooms across the globe and captivated people’s hearts thanks to a loveable CGI pig/hippopotamus and her best friend Mija, who end up going on a world spanning adventure from their scenic farmland in South Korea to the bustling metropolis of New York City.

It’s a simplistic rundown of a film that flirts the line between whimsical family film to dark (far too dark for young children) essay on the state of mankind’s carefree approach to animal welfare and the very way in which we abuse the planet we live on.

Clearly under the banner of Netflix, who seem happy to allow filmmakers creative freedom, which no doubt a reason they are attracting more and more quality to their original staples, Bong has gone all out with Okja and used an impressive budget to craft a beautifully realised CGI’d Okja and recruit an A-list cast but despite the films wins there are too many downfalls holding Okja back from the greatness some have labelled it to have achieved.

First of all Okja’s uneven tone can often be too jarring, with one scene playing out awkwardly for laughs, to the next becoming an instantly emotionally grabbing exercise in glumness. Often tonal shifts can work in a film but Okja’s slightly amiss narrative that includes Paul Dano’s welfare activist group, Jake Gyllenhaal’s far to OTT TV host Johnny Wilcox and Tilda Swinton’s crazed CEO Lucy Mirando gets lost within itself far too often and while it’s great Bong has lost none of his zaniness or ability to create a story with a difference, you almost wish Okja was a little less crazy, as its quiet moments are some of its most effective.

While all the car chases, animal rights issues and parade interruptions make Okja feel larger in scale, Okja is at its best when we are allowed time with Okja and Mija, whose played impressively by newcomer Seo-Hyun Ahn, an actress that seems at home acting alongside A-listers or a CGI creation, suggesting a bright future ahead for the young performer.

Watching these two memorable screen creations go about their business on screen together showcases how simple yet affecting Okja is when its focus is turned on and its script is less concerned with going for broke.

Final Say –

An odd and sometimes genuinely charming experience that gets overtaken far too often by a complicated story, hammy performances from its Hollywood cast and a script that could’ve used a polish, Okja is a streaming event sure to be a favourite of many but a disappointing and scattered experience from Bong after the highs of The Host and Snowpiercer.

2 ½ eventful street parades out of 5        

11 responses to “Film Review – Okja (2017)

  1. I agree that it was hard for me to explain the tone of this film, but I liked the idea of it enough that I think I looked past some of those issues. I did feel that many of the characters were a little caricatured, which didn’t fit with Okja and Mija. I really liked the idea of it, and I think it raises some good questions, though.

    • It certainly does have some nice ideas Elizabeth and there were moments here that were great but I found myself finding a few things to annoying to overcome.
      At least it tried to do something differently!

      • I finally saw it and really liked it. I actually really liked that it was able to seamlessly (at least to my liking) meld serious critique and goofy comedy and crazy adventure and whatever else they had going on in there. And still end up being really sweet and at the same time massively disturbing.

  2. I personally thought it was the best Netflix original yet. Not a perfect film but I thought it had a lot of heart and I would watch it again.

    • It was one of their better efforts. I still think Beasts of No Nation is their peak but this one tried to do something different and did succeed in some areas.

  3. Pingback: Film Review – Parasite (2019) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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