I’m really picky when it comes to films, especially if they are essentially love stories. Now, my
favorite films overall are, in fact, at their very core…love stories…just that they have rather original,
fantastic and dramatic plot devices and/or environments with which to be told. Quick examples of
what I mean are the following films: The Time Traveler’s Wife, Dracula, The Curious Case of
Benjamin Button, Fight Club……and now, OKJA.
Director Bong Joon-ho has already been a favorite director of mine, but I really think I have to
put him at the top, now. Years ago with Netflix first making waves, they put his film, Mother on the
streaming service. It’s pretty dramatic, disturbing and definitely let an audience know he was a
visionary. In 2007, while attending a huge horror convention with many celebrities, I was more
excited spotting a dvd vendor who had for sale an original, Korean copy of his then, newest film,
The Host – it puts Godzilla movies to shame in every way. A few years ago, Snowpiercer released
and proved that Bong is even more of a force to be reckoned with. And, now…he has given us (by
way of complete freedom from Netflix as his producer) probably the most perfect film of the year in
OKJA is the name given to a huge “super pig” supposedly from the litter of 26 from the first
super pig discovered ten years prior. The super pig litter were all separated and spread across
the globe to selected farmers who would be tasked with simply letting the pig grow in said
environments and just “see what happens.” Veteran actor, Hee-Bong Byun (having already
worked before under Bong Joon-ho in The Host), plays the South Korean mountain farmer along
with his granddaughter, Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) who have raised OKJA these past ten years. It’s
more so young Mija we quickly see that has been the nurturer. They have a solid bond and very
much the kind of relationship you’d expect a girl and her puppy to have. OKJA is bigger than a
hippo, though, quite smarter than any other animal possibly and truly represents purity as much as
Everything of purity and innocence is just as soon set on end by the Mirando corporation.
Mirando owns all of the super pigs, and they have come to collect their property. Tilda Swinton
plays the odd mogul, Lucy Mirando who sends a campy, Steve Irwin type in Jake Gyllenhaal’s
Johnny Wilcox character all over collecting the pigs. Now, Wilcox and crew have come to South
Korea. As soon as Mija realizes that they have come to take OKJA away to New York, she defies
her grandfather and embarks on a relentless effort to get her friend back.
Enter the Animal Liberation Front who befriend Mija and succeed at their plan of liberating
OKJA but for a Trojan horse, bait-and-switch kind of design. Most notably, Paul Dano, Steven
Yeun (yes, Glen from The Walking Dead) and Lilly Collins make up a portion of the Liberation team
at play with Mija. It’s Dano whose character Jay has more depth, gets more playing time and is
more impactful of the team overall. Still, Mija and OKJA are mostly left to do their best as fish out
of water from Seoul, South Korea all the way to New York City, having to literally tear across a city
scape one moment and then having to grow up being pulled into the harsh realities of the bigger,
corporate world, as well.
There’s almost nothing else I can say about the film that won’t spoil it. I felt it was not just a
love story, not just a caper of a film, but it’s also very much a social commentary on several levels.
It’s never once uninteresting, it’s never once affecting one of your emotions and above all, there’s
not a single flaw in the CGI work or baseline film quality that ever takes you out of it. OKJA is at
times very reminiscent of the classic film, Mighty Joe Young…the comparisons are going to be
obvious for many folks. Still, this film is very much its own entity and tells a more involved story.
Something else that needs to be focused on is this: Netflix released this film in theaters
around the world, as well. This is a big deal. This film is so good that it should very well be up for
a myriad of awards come Golden Globes and Oscars season. I don’t know that the Academies will
give it the respect it deserves, but the fact remains that OKJA does deserve the attention. I could
absolutely see this film netting Bong Joon-ho a best director win…hands down.
SEE. THIS. MOVIE. Two very big thumbs up.
Film Review: Okja
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Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, Paul Dano