MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
On Netflix Streaming
(If this had been put up for review, the MPAA would likely have rated this R for language and mature themes.)
Directed by Bong Joon-ho. Starring Tilda Swinton, An Seo-hyn.
Okja, one of the most original films of 2017, can only be viewed on Netflix’s streaming service. There’s a simple reason for this: Netflix gave the visionary South Korean director Bong Joon-ho the money (fifty million dollars) to make the movie that he wanted to make, with complete creative freedom. Joon-ho’s last film, 2013’s Snowpiercer was denied wide theatrical distribution when the filmmaker refused to cut 20 minutes from that film’s running time. So, like it or not, these wonderfully rich cinematic spectacles must be seen on your TV or computer at home.
Okja takes place is a not-so-distant future in which a multinational corporation is conducting genetic experiments to produce a “superpig” that will produce massive quantities of delicious meat while ostensibly being more environmentally conscious. Many countries are raising these creatures, who will eventually be entered in a worldwide contest ten years down the road.
Okja is the name of the pig that is being raised in South Korea. Most everybody would agree that you should never name an animal that you plan to eat later, but consuming Okja is the last thing on the mind of Mija (Seo-hyn), who considers her to not only be a playmate, but more like a best friend. When Okja is taken away and shipped to New York, it is up to Mija to rescue her beloved buddy.
In addition to the hypocritical leaders of the Mirando Corporation (including Tilda Swinton in dual roles), we meet Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal), a hyperactive star of a TV nature show who is hired by Mirando as a celebrity spokesperson, and the members of the Animal Liberation Front (Paul Dano and Stephen Yeun) who are attempting to sabotage the proceedings.
The movie makes abrupt shifts in tone along the way, eventually leading up to an anti-animal-harvesting diatribe worthy of comparison to Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle (which critiqued the deplorable conditions of America’s slaughterhouses).
As dark as Okja can get at times, it keeps the love between a little girl and her superpig front-and-center. The movie is exciting and often hilarious, with beautifully filmed chase sequences and some fine moments of slapstick. The film includes English and Korean dialogue and is beautifully shot by Darius Khondji, with incredible CGI effects. Sometimes the film stumbles along the way, but it always manages to find its footing again.
There seems to be no end to dystopian dramas these days, so it’s nice to find one as humane and generous in spirit as Okja. The film’s conclusion is not overly optimistic, but it leaves us hopeful that as long as love exists there will always be something worth fighting for.
Three halos: This imaginative mashup of satire, adventure, and science fiction creature feature is unpredictable and entertaining.
Two pitchforks: A lot of casual, strong swearing; stark depictions of corporate meat production.
Do you have comments about this movie or movie review? E-mail your comments. (Your name and UM affiliation must be supplied in order for your comments to be posted.)
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH.
near the Akron-Canton airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW ·
North Canton, OH 44720
Toll Free: 800-831-3972
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 am – 4:00 pm.
©2016 EAST OHIO CONFERENCE. All Rights Reserved.