OKJA Is a Nice Mix Of What Bong Joon-Ho can do as a Filmmaker


OKJA, the newest film from Bong Joon-Ho, feels like a nice culmination to his career trajectory so far. It’s not his best film, though is better than the highly overrated Snowpiercer. But it is a mix between his more serious work, like Mother and Memories of a Murder, and sillier work, like The Host.

Tilda Swinton plays Lucy Mirando, a high-powered CEO that seems to care as much about important things like world hunger and the environment as she does her own career and fame. With her chief strategist Frank Dawson (Giancarlo Esposito), they have created a new super-sized GMO animal that will help battle hunger and reduce the carbon footprint of conventional slaughtered animals. Also, they are programmed to be very tasty.

OKJA is going to Netflix streaming, and when you add in that convenience, this is a highly recommended film.

The pigs need to be raised for ten years in twenty six different areas of the world, so Joon-Ho is able to hybrid his South Korean career with his now Hollywood career by setting one of the stories in his home country.  There, a farmer named Hee-Bong (The Host’s Byun Hee-Bong), raises one with his daughter Mija (Ahn Seo-Hyun), who falls in love with the pig. Mija is both so young and so detached from the big American corporate world that she doesn’t understand what they want to do with her pig, named OKJA, nor does she understand or care about the conflicts that are happening in the world over this controversial program.

Swinton has her performance dialed up to eleven, as does some of the supporting cast, including a completely unchecked Jake Gyllenhaal who was given the keys to his character and told to run with it. He plays Dr. Johnny, a TV celebrity science expert, kind of a combo between Bill Nye and Steve Irwin, and is the friendly face of the corporation. I still have no idea if his performance works and probably never will.

The other end of the conflict that Mija is stuck between is created by a group of ski-mask wearing leftwing radicals, led by Paul Dano, who is also having some fun with the role. The center of the debate are larger issues we struggle with in society life the safety of GMOs (which shouldn’t be a debate…they are safe). A more important and very timely message in the film is the damage done by two sides fighting and missing the issue that others may be victims to their righteousness.

OKJA is going to Netflix streaming, and when you add in that convenience, this is a highly recommended film. It doesn’t hit the heights of Memories of a Murder or Mother, but very few  movies do. Joon-Ho is in a stage in his life where he wants to have some fun, flash his sense of humor, and maybe slip in a message. And by slip in, I mean drive with a jackhammer that is powered by an extra generator, but he still manages to make it a lot of fun