Netflix is not slowing down when it comes to providing quality entertainment, now with feature films right in your home without going to the cinema, Okja is a prime example of what is to come. This is a spoiler free review of this film, if you want to be ironic – eat some bacon while watching this too!
The premise of Okja seems familiar but very different. Pet/Animal is stolen/lost and distressed owner/animal lover goes out of their way to rescue them. It’s like a much darker version of Babe but with updated themes and tropes that pokes at the idea of ‘kind capitalism’ and the food industry. More than just a statement of what you eat and where your food comes from, it’s a film that stands on its own as a global capitalist funded adventure.
Set in an alternative future that’s not too different from ours, a company called Mirando (I think this is poking a snide at the company Monsanto, it sounds almost too similar for it not to be. Monsanto produces soy and maize and has been called an evil company on numerous occasions) which has made ‘super pigs’ which are look like a cross of a pig and a hippo. Tilda Swinton who plays Lucy Mirando, the CEO of Mirando does her best of trying to be the empathetic business woman and tries her best to erase the legacy of her horrible father and rectify any wrong doings that come to her and the company.
Mirando as part of a research experiment, send each of these super pigs out to different countries and they select the best one 10 years later in a competition of sorts. One of these pigs goes to South Korea.
Okja, one of the super pigs is raised by Mija played by Ahn Seo Hyun and her grandfather. For 10 years they live a blissful happy mountain farm life. Until one day, Lucy sends her mascot sends Dr Johnny played by Jake Gallenhal who for all intensive purposes is like an awkward quirky creepy version of the late Steve Irwin. Before Mija knows it, her lifelong companion is being sent away to a foreign country by Johnny and the company.
The film is called Okja but really Mija is the real star. Her determination, drive and persistence to get her friend back is authentic and doesn’t feel forced at all. If someone took away something/someone you love, wouldn’t you do anything in your power to get them back? That’s Mija. And you don’t mess with her. The actress did an amazing job at playing a strong young woman who doesn’t let anything or anyone stand in her way.
Mija of course gets some help from a group called the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) that’s basically a PETA that tries to be non violent, however both in films and reality trying to be non violent usually ends up with the complete opposite result. ALF is run by Jay who is played by Paul Dano and his followers. K played by Steven Yeun a Korean American who helps translate for Mija that they are on her and Okja’s side. It’s great to see such a diverse cast that works so well.
What I loved about this movie was the themes that it portrayed:
The Meat Industry – how it shows that the meat industry in real life treats animals as just ‘inventory’ as a means to get their profits and make their shareholders happy. The animals welfare is a very low priority and something is only done if it produces additional yield for the company and is customers.
The Kind Capitalist – Capitalism is given a big middle finger in this movie, the introduction of the movie showing how the 1% get their return on investment even if it means waiting 10 years. Not only that, the price of trying to get a return on the investment almost always has ethical and moral implications.
How Consumer marketing works – By saying things like environmentally friendly and NON GMO in selling the new super pigs, its shows that consumers are blind to what really goes on behind the scenes when they get a new food product. Persuading the consumer that the super pig is a fantastic ethically superior product to everything else that’s in the market.
Because this movie was very food related, I had to watch it and I’m absolutely glad I did. While it won’t put me off meat or make me vegan, this movie does a good job at pointing out the implications of what companies try to do when they want to control the food chain. Regardless of the themes, its still a thrilling ride from start to finish and for those who have a Netflix subscription, watch this movie! With bacon but thats optional 🙂