A Thought Provoking Story About Corporate Greed
Despite being mired in ugly controversy from the Hollywood faithful against the Netflix revolution, Okja is a beautiful film. It defiantly hits back at Hollywood in their belief Netflix can’t deliver the feature film goods, to produce a story that touches the heart-strings and tells a thought provoking narrative rife with themes of corporate greed and globalisation. It’s not perfect; there are a few wobbles with the story and character arcs, but on the whole Okja is a really solid effort.
The film opens with Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) addressing an eager crowd of sceptic press. After public controversy over GMOs and questionable business practices, Lucy’s business, the Mirando Corporation, unveil a new “Super pig” trial. 26 super piglets are to be distributed around the world. The best breeder, the person who creates the biggest pig after 10 years, will receive a lucrative sum of money.
After a noisy, bright 5 minute opening, the story changes pace to a dreamy, tranquil backdrop of an Asian jungle where Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) and her super pig Okja live together.
When Mija’s pig is taken away as the winning pig in the competition, Mija follows Okja’s kidnappers to try and save her pig from the powerful multi-national company. Its worth noting at this point that the film switches between Korean (with English subtitles) and English throughout the film. While that won’t be an issue for most, those who don’t enjoy reading lots of subtitles will probably not enjoy this one.
There’s no denying that Okja is a busy film, both thematically and with its plot. There’s a lot of ideas here, some of which executed well and others not so much.
The ideas around globalisation, food stock, GMOs and the like, are really well done and highlight the consumer demand and the extent businesses will go to profit from it.
The powerful scenes of the factories toward the back half of the film are both shocking and thought provoking, intent to challenge how you view food. It’s a bitter pill to swallow sometimes looking at the emotional animals, and despite the happy-go-lucky feel the trailer leads you to believe, this is a dark film that isn’t afraid to show some shocking and distressing material.
For all that the film gets right (and it does get a lot right) there are moments in its plot where logic flies out the window. On more than one occasion Mija is able to infiltrate areas that should be heavily guarded or at least locked, leading guards on a wild goose chase through winding corridors and locking doors behind her. If this was utilized once it might be easy to overlook but the same trick is pulled on three separate occasions and it comes across as lazy writing.
The global corporation characters, including Mirando and squeaky voiced Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gylenhaal), are one-dimensional satirical caricatures and jarringly contrast with the animals rights group and Mija, who have a little bit more dimension to their characters. I was going to criticise this heavily but on reflection, it feels more like a clever artistic choice to highlight the simple minds of the apathetic corporation that only care about greed and profits. We’ll let you be the judge of that!
To summarise though, Okja is a beautiful, thought provoking picture. Its story does have some inconsistencies but strong themes do a good job of shadowing any niggling issues.
Mija and Okja’s bond is what keeps the film ticking to its bittersweet conclusion. While its certainly not an Oscar winner, Netflix strike gold with this movie, translating their talent from TV shows over to one of their best efforts for a feature film.
Verdict - 7.5/10