Okja is a remarkable modern fairy tale, a beautiful mix of American and Korean filmmaking by the masterful director Bong Joon-ho. While there’s some familiar beats when it comes to the themes of corporate greed, and the film’s tone ranges from biting satire to genuinely heartfelt, what Bong Joon-ho has created visually is nothing short of miraculous, and the simple story of a girl and her pet is completely touching. There are many elements of Okja that feel preachy, but the film remains watchable when it focuses on it’s smaller, character driven story.
In the not too distant future, the Miranda Corporation have genetically engineered massive, pig like creatures too hopefully resupply the world’s food. However, for the young girl Mija (Ahn Joon-ho), the massive creature known as Okja is her best friend, and when the company’s ruthless CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) and the company’s spokesperson Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) attempt to use Okja for profit, Mija teams up with an animal-rights activist named Jay (Paul Dano) to save the creature. Ahn Joon-ho gives a remarkably vulnerable performance for such a young performer, but it’s Gyllenhaal’s ridiculous and despicable villain that steals the film.
There are many points where Okja is terrifying, showing the cruelty of corporate America, yet there’s also moments that are sweet and full of adventure, evoking memories of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial or The Goonies. Despite some heavy handed thematic elements, the film is relatively straight forward and keeps things concise and entertaining. It’s not a perfect film, nor is it a future classic, but it’s an ambitious, and mostly entertaining film that shows Bong Joon-ho’s talent as a creative mind. Grade: B