We see a woman, Lucy (Tilda Swinton) being made up with several people making a big fuss over her. She then starts walking down the stairs of an old factory. She tells us about her grandfather who started the company, Mirando, that she is CEO of, stating, “We all know that he was a terrible man.” She ends up standing upon a platform in front of an audience. She pledges that she is changing the company, and it will be filled with core values that care about the “environment and love.”
She then talks about how different she is from her sister Nancy, that she, Lucy has vision. She then talks about how the world is overpopulated and how so many people, including 30 million in America go hungry every day. She tells the crowd “The World is running out of food, and we aren’t talking about it!”
She then shows the audience a picture of what she calls a “Super Pig.” They found this super pig in Chile and brought it back to the United States, where they in an “Eco-Friendly, natural and non-gmo” way bred 26 super piglets. She explains that they have sent the 26 super piglets to 26 different farmers around the world. The pigs will be raised in each culture’s traditional farming ways. The piglets will be the ancestors of a whole new species that can feed the world. Her company is having a contest for the farmer who raises “the most special super pig.” She announces to a very excited crowd that Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal), a veterinarian that hosts a popular animal program “Magical Animals” on TV, will be the face of the company and be the judge who picks the “Super Pig.” She announces that the contest will be judged in ten years. The pigs will be big, beautiful and leave a minimal footprint on the environment. The “Super Pig” will be a godsend for a hungry world.
We travel to Korea, where out in the country, a young girl, Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) is playing with a flower on a hillside. Suddenly from out of the forest behind her, a gigantic animal lumbers toward the girl. This ‘Super Pig” is massive, bigger than a hippo, with long ears, big elephant-like legs, a huge face and expressive eyes. He moves up next to Mija and gives her a gentle nudge. We instantly know that these two are great friends and are about to go on a trip. A trip that will change both of their lives.
You are going to fall in love with a pig but not just any pig, a pig named Okja that will stumble into your heart and may never leave. It’s a magical film that at times is funny, other times quite grave and dark. I want to warn you that this film is not for kids. Even though the lead is played by a kid, the film deals with subjects like industrial farming, animal cruelty, corporate greed, and can get very graphic and disturbing. However, this movie isn’t all dark. There is quite a bit of humor in this film showing up at odd or dark times due to the absurdity of the situation or the weird and wild cast of characters. There are some sweet moments between Okja and Mija as they have an incredible bond where one can’t live without the other.
The film, written and directed by Joon-ho Bong, covers just about every genre that there is. It has touches of comedy, the warmth, and feeling of a family film, the chase sequences of an action film, the thrills of a suspense movie, and the intensity of a drama. Throw in a bit of horror and a bunch of biting satire, and you have this film. The story-line is moving, funny and scary, sometimes in the matter of minutes of each other. It’s a film that has a definite social message. Bong has done a fantastic job moving between these different genres, and I love how rapidly you hate Tilda Swinton’s character, the nasty CEO Lucy and how quickly you fall in love with Mija and her super pig Okja. The CGI that creates Okja is amazing, even on a smaller screen. It’s key to believing that Okja is a living animal and right from the first scene we see her in. The detail of her skin and eyes is incredible and lets us see her as Mija’s special friend. The chase sequences, especially in a Seoul shopping center are dazzling and sensationally done.
The cast is outstanding in the film with Paul Dano playing the head of underground animal rights organization and Steven Yeun, Daniel Henshall and Lily Collins playing the faithful followers. Seo-Hyun Ahn is excellent as Mija. Her scenes with Okja are genuinely moving and filled with love. And she’s quite good at the action sequences, especially a rather scary mountaintop scene. Tilda Swinton doesn’t disappoint as the narcissistic CEO, who only cares about money and her legacy playing her with relish. Jake Gyllenhaal is almost unrecognizable as Dr. Johnny Wilcox, as a vet that has his own TV show. Gyllenhaal is hysterical as this over the top, self-centered host (think an over-caffeinated Steve Irwin with a little Richard Simmons mixed in).
It’s a strange mix of humor and darkness that works extremely well. . Ultimately, you will want to go on this journey with Mija and Okja. My Rating: Full Price
Note: this film is not in theatres but available on Netflix.
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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