The Breakfast Table: Okja
Very in your face message
Okja is the latest independent film to hit Netflix, is it work checking out though?
The film follows Mija, a young girl who must risk everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named ‘Okja’.
Player 1 – Brad
Okja follows the story of Mija and her super-pig Okja. The super-pig was created by Mirando Corporation in order to create an animal where every part of the animal could be turned into some form of food. In 2007 the super-pig was introduced to stockholders with 26 of the newly born super-pigs being given to 26 farmers for Mirando across the globe to be unveiled to the world in ten years. Now in 2017, Mija from South Korea is introduced with her super-pig named Okja. The pair are very attached to one another and travel the mountainside together gathering food and playing around the forested area. When Mirando Corporation comes South Korea to name Okja as the winning super-pig to be shown in New York, Mija does not approve and goes to get him back. Along the way, she meets the Animal Liberation Front who aim to show what Mirando Corporation is doing behind closed doors with their newest super-pigs.
The movie has a very in your face message about animal cruelty and genetic modifications, but it also takes a more realistic approach as it shows that both Mirando Corporation and the Animal Liberation Front aren’t all good nor all bad. The Animal Liberation Front are introduced as “not-terrorists” and the good guys, but it becomes quickly apparent that is not exactly the case with them. Then Mirando Corporation has their problems with how they handle their operation, but they are trying to solve a hunger issue with the high population on the earth. They just aren’t going about it in the most ethical ways. Overall the mix of the combat of the two groups seems like one that has been going on for some time, with Mija and Okja now being caught in the middle of it, and as such, Mija comes off as the most sane and personable character in the movie.
On top of the great story the casting for this movie is great. While I only recognized a handful of the cast from previous projects such as Jake Gyllenhaal (Lou from Nightcrawler), Steven Yeun (Glenn from The Walking Dead), and Giancarlo Esposito (Gus from Breaking Bad), the entire cast of actors in this movie did amazing. Overall, it’s the actors in this movie that bring it to life and make it as wonderful a movie as it is. While I would not recommend watching this movie with kids unless you are looking to scar them from eating meat for the rest of their life, it is a must see for everyone else.
Player 2 – James
Okja is a film that was both heart wrenching and enjoyable for many different reasons. Most notably is the connection between Mija (the little girl who helps raise Okja) and Okja (the genetically modified super-pig) and the innate desire for them to remain companions. The overarching theme of the film is apparent within the first fifteen minutes and you never escape the harsh reality that almost parallels our own. The world is overpopulated by humans and as such, food is in short supply, making Okja’s existence a means to an end – albeit a very tragic one.
The film can be preachy at times and the message is one that is meant to make the viewer uncomfortable. I know I wouldn’t be able to watch this movie or recommend it if it didn’t have a semi-happy ending, but that’s about all I can get into without any spoilers. I can say that this film definitely made me question my eating habits. I may also have enjoyed the film because I share a connection with my cat Momo whom I care about dearly. So Mija and Okja really have something that I empathize with in my personal life. Creating personal connections could arguably be the end goal for any filmmaker, and this one did just that. It’s not a monumental film and it probably won’t change your life but I sure as hell hugged Momo for a good long while after.
Player 3 – Joanne
Okja, a new Netflix Original Movie, is a story that explores the bonds between humans and animals while highlighting the real-world issues surrounding slaughterhouses, corporations, and animal-rights activists. I wish I could say they explore these issues in a nuanced way, but the message is blatant and preachy from the movie’s opening scene. When we are introduced to Okja and her owner/companion Mija, it is evident that these two have formed an incredibly strong bond. The bond between Mija and Okja is a relatable one if you consider yourself an animal lover. However, there are a few graphic scenes in this movie that will make just about anyone cringe. These scenes are only made worse by the few but powerful displays of sentience from Okja and a couple of other super-pigs.
Worse yet, there is almost no shift in mood or tone for the duration of this movie. It remains serious throughout and there is not much, if any, comic relief. Because of the constant, serious tone, this movie can feel incredibly slow-moving. While I don’t consider Okja a bad movie, it is not a movie I can recommend without a warning. This movie is dark from beginning to end, and even the ending is laced with some very dark implications. Add in the fact that this two hour movie felt about three to four hours, and it can really bring down your mood. This is not a movie I would recommend to children, and this is not a movie for someone purely looking for entertainment. This is a film that seeks to make you question the world around you. The quality acting makes this goal a reality, but while the directors were so busy trying to make you question this industry, they seemed to be so focused on sharing the message that they forgot to do so in an entertaining way.
Player 4 – Jon
Being a fan of Bong Joon-ho’s previous work, namely The Host and and Snowpiercer, I was excited to see his new movie, Okja. Much like Snowpiercer, Okja takes real world themes and applies them heavily into into the story. This time instead of social hierarchy, Joon-ho tackles the ideas of animal cruelty, the ethicalness of slaughterhouses, genetically modifying animals and how far is too far to solve an issue as big as world hunger. Throughout the movie, these themes are always front and center, making the movie dark at times as well as slow to get started.
The film features an all star North American cast lead by veteran actress, Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia, Snowpiercer, Constantine), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler) as well as South Korean child actress, Ahn Seo-hyun. Everyone plays their roles well and the acting is great throughout. Unfortunately the pacing of the story can be uneven at times and there are some periods where the movie really starts to crawl. The movie runs a little over 2 hours but it feels longer. Cutting the film down to even an hour and 45 minutes would have done wonders to make the story more concise and straightforward.
Overall it was a good movie, very heavy in tone, which is to be expected with a Bong Joon-ho movie. It is pretty slow to build up and lacked a lot of the dark humor I’m used to with his previous works.