Okja (Bong Joon-ho, 2017)

What's it about? Okja is a giant, GM super-pig, raised in the mountains of South Korea by an old farmer and his granddaughter Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), who is devoted to the animal. However, Okja is actually a marketing tool by the multinational Mirando Corporation and their wish to bring Okja to America for the Superpig competition sparks a series of chaotic events.

Is it any good? An undeniably entertaining film, but one that is a curious mix of genres. There's a sweet, family-orientated element in the nicely-drawn central relationship between Mija and the lovable Okja, which provides the heart of the film. Running alongside this, however, we also have a sort of corporate business drama about GM foods and marketing, with Tilda Swinton having great fun as the glacial CEO responsible for Okja's creation. As Okja gets moved to America, it then becomes a kind of pignapping action chase movie, with some nice moments of comedy courtesy of Paul Dano, playing the leader of a well-meaning but somewhat inept animal liberation group, who are attempting to expose the shady operations of the Mirando Corporation. Finally, in the climactic scenes, it becomes a sort of eco-horror film as Okja's fate becomes clear. The intention is presumably to not shy away from the realities of meat production, but parents should note that this, along with swearing throughout, means that this is not the child-friendly cute animal adventure that the initial premise might suggest. Plus, it flicks between English and Korean languages throughout and along the way a scenery-chewing Jake Gyllenhaal turns up periodically as a manic animal-loving TV presenter who has sold his soul to be the face of the Mirando Corporation. So just like Joon-ho's previous Snowpiercer, it's a heady cocktail and its a bit uneven as a result. But it's pleasing to see such a unique film and by the end Joon-ho just about manages to pull it all together with wit and charm. Probably the best giant pig movie since Razorback and may make you think twice about that bacon sandwich.

I don't trust you. What do others think? This represents the latest effort by Netflix to break into the movie industry, an effort which hasn't pleased everyone in the business. At its premiere in Cannes, for example, loud boos greeted the appearance of the Netflix logo onscreen and Netflix were disqualified from competing in the competition proper, all of which just increased the film's profile. But Netflix's decision to allow Bong Joon-ho to make the strange film he wanted, without interference, will no doubt be attractive to other film-makers. It's likely that Netflix could well carve out a niche for itself as a funder of unique, creative visions from both new and established film-makers who wish to avoid the limiting factors of the studio system. In any event most agree this is Netflix's best original film to date so expect more where this came from.

Anything else I should know? Joon-ho invited journalist Jon Ronson to co-write the script, which helps explain the cynical, satirical edge to the film. Ronson explains here how he worked some of his ideas into Joon-ho's original script. And, finally, you wait years for John Denver's Annie's Song to be featured in a film and then along come two films in quick succession which use it to tremendous effect. As in Free Fire earlier this year, here it is also used to accompany a funny, frenetic action scene - I defy you to watch it without a smile on your face. Also, as Bong Joon-ho explains here, Okja as a concept is not as far-fetched as you might think. Be afraid!

What does the Fonz think? A silk purse from a pig's ear.

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