Nestled in the remote mountains of Korea, a young girl named Mija (Ahn Seo-Hyeon) befriends a genetically modified ‘super-pig.’ After a decade together, Okja’s creator, the CEO of the Mirando Corporation (Tilda Swinton), recalls the pig to be centrepiece of a New York parade.
Even though this Netflix-produced feature would be incredible to see on the big screen, Bong Joon Ho, director of The Host (2013) and Memories of Murder (2003) has delivered a piece which will give you plenty of food for thought.
In the remote mountains of South Korea, Mija has been raised with Okja; one of several genetically modified ‘super-piglets.’ Created by the Mirando Corporation as a solution to world hunger, the pigs are environmentally friendly, but here’s the catch, they’ve been made to taste good too. When Okja is transported to New York for her first public appearance, Mija desperately tries to save her. On her perilous journey, she meets the Animal Liberation Front, led by the incredible Paul Dano whose mission is to expose the unethical farming of super-piglets by using Okja as a mole in the slaughterhouses.
Seo-Hyeon portrays a smart, innocent and fearsome lead. Alongside Okja, a slobbery, adorable and intelligent hippopotamus-pig hybrid, they’re an inseparable team who are impossible not to root for. As well as Seo-Hyeon, Okja also includes a star-studded line-up including Paul Dano, as the leader of the animal rights group, Jake Gyllenhaal, a celebrity doctor and Tilda Swinton, the villainous CEO of the Mirando Corporation.
The Ghilbi-esque first half does not prepare you for what’s in store – set in idyllic countryside and observing the close bond between Mija and Okja, it feels like a family friendly picture. The second half however throws a massive curve-ball when we hold witness to the disturbing barbarity behind the Mirando Corporation. Bong’s ability to juggle a wacky fantasy-adventure peppered with tones of dystopian sci-fi and animal activism, is testament to his incredible ability as a filmmaker. Whilst Okja is grizzly and grossly upsetting in parts, at the core of the movie still lies a heart-warming tale of a young girl who is willing to risk everything to save her only friend.
Emotionally charged, this is an incredibly exciting movie and it’s no surprise why this Netflix gem is shining a spotlight on Korean cinema.
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