Netflix can be pretty awesome sometimes. When it’s not providing us Brits with TV series and films that we wouldn’t necessarily be able to find elsewhere without breaking certain lawsw, it instead provides us with some absolutely cracking original content. TV series such as Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things keep us glued to our screens over a weekend, whilst some ofits original films and documentaries help to keep us howling for more.
Okja (pronounced Oak-Ja) is one of the latter, a Netflix exclusive film that is incredibly powerful, and will leave you begging for a tiny extra smattering of story to keep you going until your next fix.
The story of Okja revolves around the controversial topic of genetic modification, and is all started by the production of a “Super Pig” by The Mirando Corporation (a multi-national company) which, in an attempt to raise some positive PR, ships a number of pigs to farmers around the world for a decade long competition of World’s Best Super Pig… before every one of them is slaughtered to make absolutely delicious meat to feed the world. One of these pigs (the titular Okja) is sent to live with Mija and her grandfather on their farm where they raise her to be a truly super Super Pig. However, after ten years pass, Mirando comes to reclaim their property and Mija attempts to get Okja back, quickly finding herself caught up in a miniature war between a group of animal rights activists and the Corporation.
Director Bong Joon Ho (who has previously directed the fantastic, but unreleased in the UK, Snowpiercer) crafts an absolutely wonderful film with a truly amazing cast. Among the ranks of actors are Tilda Swinton (Hail, Caesar, Doctor Strange) Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Do the Right Thing) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Nightcrawler.) Each and every one of these actors embrace their role within the plot and throw themselves into their part with much gusto, especially Gyllenhaal, who spends a lot of his time ricocheting from one emotion to the next in the space of a few seconds during any scene in which he appears. It’s enough to worry you that he will end up stealing the limelight, but, when juxtaposed with the silent gravitas of some of the other actors, he pales into insignificance.
With the core message of the film taking a look at the concept of genetic modification in order to help feed the world, one would hope that many of the characters and their actions would be steeped in shades of grey, with neither side coming out as heroes. Unfortunately, while this is what seems to happen near the beginning, towards the second act there are fairly obvious lines drawn in the sand to help show you who is on whose side. It’s an understandable decision, many people like to see the triumph of good over evil, but when combined with the the penultimate scene, it doesn’t quite work, and makes for an incredibly bittersweet ending.
The accompanying soundtrack is also amazing. Each section of the score helps accentuate the emotions that are being portrayed within the scene, and the choice of jazz instruments for the chase sequences is inspired, creating a level of comedy that will have you chuckling quietly to yourself as a very large Super Pig causes havoc in a shopping mall.
Okja is a very powerful film, it will make you laugh, and it will bring a tear to your eye. If you’re struggling to find something to watch of an evening, you can’t go too wrong with this film.
Okja is out on Netflix now!