Okja is an environmental science fiction flick from Bong Joon-ho, whose previous work was the much acclaimed Snowpiercer. I too really enjoyed his previous work and was excited to hear that he was working on yet another film that was available for American audiences to see. Okja caught my eye with all of its young-star talent; Steven Yeun, Paul Dano, and Lily Collins, along with established stars in Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal. Netflix is trying to push towards becoming a legitimate production studio, with their television shows garnering acclaim left and right, and their previous big hit in Beasts of No Nation, and it seems that they have another solid project to cement their legitimacy in the business.
Overall, the performances were good, with Tilda Swinton being as awesome as she usually is, and the younger cast doing a fine job as well. Steven Yeun, Paul Dano, and Lily Collins all do a good job as the leaders of the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and elicit some emotional moments here and there to combat the more comedic tone that carries the beginning of the film. Actress Ahn Seo-hyun also shines in the film as the lead, as she really captures the feeling of someone longing to keep their companion safe, and would go to the ends of the earth to accomplish that task. She also exudes a great deal of intelligence, with her finding creative ways to survive in action-heavy moments, and managing to learn quite a bit of English over the span of a 14 hour flight.
I think the one performance that everybody is talking about right now though, is Jake Gyllenhaal’s. This had to be one of the most over-the-top performances I have ever seen; this guy was gorging the scenery every second he had the chance, the design of the character was beyond ridiculous, and there were moments in the film where I asked myself why he was even there. I’m guessing the director and writers were trying to say that he represented American reality-TV stars’ materialistic and self-centered personalities that always hungered for attention, but I thought that it came off as hyperbolic and it made Gyllenhaal’s character out to be a cartoonish fool. I really admire Gyllenhaal as an actor, but I have to say that this was probably the worst thing I’ve seen from him, but I can see that this is probably at the fault of the director rather than the actor.
Another gripe I had with the film overall was the comedy, maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I just wasn’t feeling the jokes they tried to throw out there. I got a chuckle every-now-and-then, but a lot of them fell flat. However, the comedy wasn’t entirely too prevalent throughout the film, instead the second half of the flick focuses more on the tragedy of the food industry and its effects on the animals that supply it. I thought that this was executed particularly well as the deplorable acts taken on the animals produced for human consumption is displayed front-and-center. This is quite the political film as it really is an expression of the growing concern of how corporations are abusing their powers to take advantage of certain situations, all while putting up a false image to please the public.
I believe this to be a step in the right direction for Netflix, as it’s a solid installment to their vast catalog of original content, but I’m not expecting any Oscar talk for it however. It was a pleasant experience, and I’m sure that everyone will be loving that giant pig/hippo/dog thing, Okja after seeing this flick.
Favorite Scene: Leaving the camp
Images courtesy of JoBlo, SlashFilm, and Hollywood.com