OKJA is tipped by many to be Netflix’s first blockbuster…do we agree?
Films made for / released straight to “on demand” media rather than cinema sparks great debate. It could be argued for the positive; that streaming outlets allow wide release of films that may otherwise never seen the light of day. Others insist it’s detrimental to the cinema industry.
As for me? Well, the jury is still out.
I was equally pleased and disappointed to see OKJA released on Netflix. Pleased because the nearest cinema that plays limited release films (which OKJA would have been) is an hour away, so I would have missed it. But disappointed because OKJA is highly deserving of a big screen run.
Bong Joon-ho’s fantasy epic, OKJA, follows Korean farm girl Mija who [unknowingly part of a promotional ploy by a multi-national company that is secretly manufacturing genetically modified meat] raises a loveable and smart super-pig called Okja. When Okja is claimed by the company to be slaughtered, Mija risks all to save her best friend and expose the true nature of the company.
OKJA boasts a stellar cast. There’s Tilda Swinton as the tightly wound company CEO, Paul Dano as the stringent leader of the Animal Liberation Front and Jake Gyllenhaal as the insanely eccentric ‘animal expert’ TV personality (think an unhinged Steve Irwin on speed! All are brilliant in their roles, as is relative unknown Seo-Hyun Ahn who plays Mija. At only 13 years old, she wields an impressively commanding presence.
OKJA is expertly directed. The film is difficult to classify due to it’s sprawling emotional spectrum. At times it’s wacky and hilarious, with delightfully crazy soundtrack choices to boot. At other times it’s fantastical and adventurous.
There’s action, sadness, shock, political and social comment…Bong Joon-ho is going for a world record here for the amount of tonal shifts in one film! But he juggles them beautifully, and at no time does it feel jerky as we are swept along on this captivating and unpredictable ride.
Despite it’s fantastical CGI animal protagonist, some may still find OKJA a little too ‘close to the bone’ for their liking. The film delves into the inhumane process of mass meat production. The depiction is a grim reflection of reality, and some audiences may prefer to remain ignorant. While heavy-handed with the emotional moments, Bong Joon-ho is careful not to come across as though he is lecturing or preaching to us…but he hasn’t held back to pander to our delicate sensibilities either.
OKJA is an epic and sprawling film, successfully blending genres and tones to create one fascinating and offbeat piece of cinema. It made me laugh, it made me gasp…and it made me cry.
I rate it 8.5 out of 10
OKJA is available to watch on Netflix now.