When a powerful corporation creates superpigs for human consumption, a group of animal rights activists team up with one superpigs owner to expose the harsh reality behind the illusion. Tackling the meat industry in a stylized way, Okja provides a realistic insight to factory farming and genetically modified food. Directed and written by Bong Joon-ho, best known to American audiences for Snowpiercer, this Netflix gem is the streaming sites first big hit, gaining critical acclaim and making audiences fall in love with a CGI creature.
In order to solve the worlds inevitable food supply shortage, Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton), the CEO of the Mirando Corporation develops “superpigs”. During a presentation in 2007, she focuses on the pigs low environmental impact and their lack of dietary needs – making them the cutting edge of meat production for the future. Twenty-six superpigs are then sent to various families around the world to be raised. After ten years, one will be crowned the best pig, seemingly part of an elaborate PR campaign.
Ten years later we see a young girl named Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), living in the hills of South Korea with her grandfather and her best friend, superpig Okja. When famed zoologist Dr. Jonny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) pays the family a visit, he decides Okja is the best superpig and takes her to New York City for the Mirando event.
Without hesitation, Mija runs off to find Okja, meeting a group of animal rights activist along the way. Their goal is to expose the Mirando Corporation for what is is and show the gruesome reality behind the guise of the superpigs festive public unveiling. With Mija and Okja being the keys to their missions success.
A slightly satirical look on our real life meat production, Okja realistically tackles the dark underbelly that we often don’t think of when we consume our food. While the message is heavy throughout the film, it doesn’t weigh on you in the sense of watching a vegetarian propaganda film. It very much tackles the issues of GMO’s and the need to be aware of what we eat.
Fans of Snowpiercer will notice Joon-ho’s signature writing and style. Providing viewers with a humorous and twisted story line with highly overdone characters, in the best way possible. Most notably Gyllenhaal’s, whose performance as a mildly psychotic television zoologist is nothing but hilarious.
Other recognizable faces are Paul Dano, Lily Collins and Steven Yeun, who play Jay and K, two members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Who both give fantastic, emotional performances that they’re both known for from previous projects. However, no one can compare to Ahn Seo-hyun. Working for nearly a decade in the Korean film industry, the 13-year-oldis the biggest screen-stealer, without a doubt. The young actress delivers an impassioned performance, entirely in Korean, that doesn’t lose an ounce of intensity for English-speaking audiences.
While the story starts off fairly slow, albeit visually magical, the remainder of the film is fast-paced, sometimes getting ahead of itself. But when it catches up and focuses on the message, it’s beautiful. And though there is no perfect ending, it’ll stick in your mind for some time. And also leave you feeling a bit emotionally connected to a CGI hippo-pig hybrid.
Which speaking of CGI, it is absolutely breathtaking in this film. Watching Okja run around the natural landscape of South Korea, you’re left amazed how this creature isn’t real. Every detail down to the fine hairs on its body and how it moves is so perfectly created.
Making quite the splash at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Okja provides Netflix its first massive feature film hit and shifts the platform for finding a great summer film. You can find it streaming exclusively on Netflix right now.