Thursday, 29 June 2017

Okja (2017) - Film Review


*Originally written June 29th, 2017*

"Friend, not food"

I didn't think Netflix had another great film in them after the constant release of utter shite for the past two years after they released Beasts of No Nation, but they've finally done it. Okja is Netflix's first truly great Original Film in some time, and quite possibly their best.

From the director of Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-Ho), Okja follows a young girl who will do anything to get her genetically enginereed super-pig, Okja, back from the government who want it for their own purposes, so she goes on a globe-trotting adventure to reclaim her friend.

It's all very '80s and Spielbergian to a point, but it really has a strong heart behind it. The relationship between Okja and her human guardian is one of genuine warmth and brings a real emotional core to the film. It really helps if you have a soft spot for animals. Okja could have been a disaster of a creation. Making an original creature for a film can be hit-or-miss, but the technical team mostly did an incredible job bringing Okja to life. It's not as good as say the recent Planet of the Apes films when it comes to bringing a CGI character to life, but they did a good enough job to make us care for Okja.

I did not expect how deep this film would be, or how even heartbreaking and devestating the ending would be. Okja makes a big statement of the morality of factory farming and how we should treat animals. There are moments towards the end that made me feel awful for eating meat and wanting me to try and have a serious go at being vegetarian again. not the piss-poor attempts I've tried in the past. Some of the shit here is harrowing though.

Which brings me to the tone of the film. I'm not massively sure what to expect in Okja, but for the most part, I expected a family friendly film, which led me to be confused by the 15 rating for it in the UK. While I'd say this is a family friendly film for the most part, they do drop several uses of "fuck", which feels at odds for a film that is now restricted to an adult audience, despite being a film that young audiences really should see and learn from.

Bong Joon-Ho delivers some fantastic direction and a cinematic feel that has been sorely lacking nearly all of Netflix's films. There are some really inspired and exciting set-pieces and the film looks gorgeous. I really, really wish I got to see this in the cinema, which will always be a disappointing drawback of a Netflix film.

The cast are all great, although some could have done with a little restraint. The lead child actress Ahn Seo-hyun was excellent, she really carried the film. Some of the bigger names I wish had come off better. Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton were clearly having fun with their roles, but veered into hammy territory at times. That said, Paul Dano and Giancarlo Esposito were both great and stole their scenes.

Okja is Netflix's first essential film in over two years. A fun, entertaining and extremely touching adventure film that has a lot to say and has a whole lot of heart. More like this Netflix. Not the fucking aids you shit out like 'Sandy Wexler' or 'iBoy'.

8/10 Dans

Okja is available to stream now on Netflix worldwide
Watch the trailer below:

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