Critic - No.117
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Casts: Ahn Seo-Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Byun Hee-Bong, Giancarlo Esposito, Shirley Henderson, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins
Language: English / Korean / Spanish
Genre: Action / Adventure / Drama
Mija risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend - a super pig named Okja.
Boon Joon Ho is one of the filmmakers who contribute heavily to popular cinema with his successful filmography that impacts widespread of global audience. His balance of melodrama, visual grammar and his pick of societal issues make his films relevant worldwide.
‘Okja’ adds to the winning streak of the filmmaker as he addresses about animal cruelty, corporate responsibilities and meat consumption threaded with a strong tasteful melodrama. There are visual and thematic elements that do remind us of Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil (1985)’, particularly the rebel group ALF that are being chased by the cops over bridges. The lavish colours and the cartoony tone of the film do remind us of the yesteryear classic too.
The bond between Mija and Okja is tested when it’s revealed that her best friend is part of a super big project conducted by a multinational food company. How do we really see animals? As food, pets or mere property? Questions like these echo through this poignant drama.
There are bold images of animal cruelty that might be outrageously emotional for animal lovers and brutally shocking for a common audience. The narration is gripping and progressively ticks the check boxes of all genre conventions needed for a popular cinema.
The film is bogged down with many characters, back-stories of each and messages that are left undeveloped. These prevent the film to really focus on any in depth. Be it the rivalry of Mirando sisters, the conflict between ALF leader Jay and the translator K or the political satire route it detours in the second act, ‘Okja’ suffers on thin line of sub plots that are not impactful as intended. Some even look unnecessary.
Technically ‘Okja’ is sound with many exhilarating action scenes, rich production value and decent VFX models. Some chase scenes do remind us of Spielberg’s outlandish choreography of action.
There are scenes between Mija and her loyal, genetically engineered best friend that reminds us of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. Whereas, there are wacky and outlandish caricatures of largely English-language Mirando sections consisting over-the-top press conferences and Parade-sized pig balloons in dramatic speeches of maniac looking Jake Gyllenhaal. ‘Okja’s’ clash of different cartoon sensibilities might be something that Bong might have crafted with purpose but it does look a little contrived. And yes, Gyllenhaal is a disaster casting (sake of global reach) in an underwritten stock character that you won’t even remember after the film.
Even with several tonal inconsistencies in the second act, what makes ‘Okja’ impactful is the consistent emotional track between Okja and Mija. The simple treatment given in that drama, garners big emotions during the tear-jerking climax. Despite the unconventional ending, the film poses an urgent question on the high meat consumption and animal cruelty that might take over the world soon than expected or ever perceived.
‘Okja’ is an entertaining drama that poignantly addresses animal cruelty and meat consumption but not without its tonal inconsistency.
Watch 'OKJA (2017)' legally here