“Okja” stars Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Released on Netflix on June 28, 2017, the film is about a young girl who goes on a journey to rescue her large pig-like creature.
The film is directed by Bong Joon-ho, who also directed films such as Memories of Murder, The Host, and Snowpiercer. With no other new releases to see in the theater until Planet of the Apes comes out, it’s time for me to once again review another original movie from Netflix. This film made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival back in May and it was met with a four-minute standing ovation, along with a mixture of boos and applause earlier. A lot of people who subscribed to Netflix already watched it and gave it some pretty good responses, so now it’s time for me to see what all the hype was about. I only know director Bong Joon-ho from his last project known as Snowpiercer. I gave it a watch the other day and I thought it was pretty interesting, even though I haven’t watch that many international films. With his latest project available to watch on Netflix, would Joon-ho be able to impress me again?
The film features an ensemble cast that has a mixture of South Korean actors and big-time Hollywood actors like Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, which I thought was a good idea to bring in some people who are familiar with some of the popular celebrities. Seo-hyun is the main star of the film as Mija, a young girl who lives with her grandfather (played by Byun Hee-bong) and her massive superpig friend known as Okja. I thought her performance in this film was good. There’s nothing too special about her, but she definitely made her character believable without trying too hard. The rest of the cast did a good job with their performances as well, including Tilda Swinton as Lucy Mirando and Paul Dano as Jay, the leader of the animal-rights activist group known as the Animal Liberation Front who helps Mija on her journey. Gyllenhaal tried to go a different route with his performance as Johnny Wilcox, which was pretty darn unusual in my opinion, but he can either be a bit too goofy or a bit irritating as the film went on depending on your tolerance. The film had its usual bond-between-man-and-animal elements that most people are familiar with in the first act, but when Mija sets out to find Okja, not only did the story offer plenty of interesting turns, but it also expressed its themes in the most simplistic and captivating way. Typically, it is a film about the loving friendship between Mija and Okja, but it is also about animal activism and corporate greed, and Joon-ho managed to turn them into important parts of the story without shoving them in our throats. The visual designs on the pigs were also pretty impressive. They made me hard to believe that people are actually calling them “pigs”. I would also give credit to the cinematography and Jaeil Jung’s musical score for adding the extra depth to the experience. There were only a couple of scenes that either slowed the film down a bit for me or could’ve been portrayed better without being too forced, but other than that, it moves along at a respectable rate and the direction it took was nothing but solid all the way through.
Overall, “Okja” is a captivating adventure that provides a bit more than just a regular man-and-animal relationship story. With some good performances from the cast, the portrayal of its themes, the cinematography, and Jaeil Jung’s musical score, Bong Joon-ho has successfully convinced me that he’s got a good future on his hands in terms of his filmography. If you’re familiar with Joon-ho’s works like The Host and Snowpiercer and if you have a Netflix account, I would say give this one a watch if you have the time.