Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Last year, trouble brewed over Okja's inclusion in competition
"Bong keeps it all on the move with immense visual flair, innumerable chases and excellent effects."

Imagine a cross between Babe and Dumbo, mixed with a strong message about laboratory experiments on animals, genetically modified produce and global corporations which only have the profit motive to the fore, and you have the measure of Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja.

It will appeal to both adults and older children with the adorable and sensitive super-porker of the title given credible special effects expressions of happiness, hurt and bewilderment as she and his youthful carer Mija (played by the wide-eyed An Seo Hyun) grapple with ruthless company directors (in the shape of a glacial Tilda Swinton in a double role as twins), an unscrupulous TV animal show presenter (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a bunch of animal activists headed by Paul Dana.

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Swinton strides in with great brio, first as the “good” sister whose company has allegedly cleaned up its image to specialise in genetic engineering - namely developing a pig that grows to almost elephantine proportions. They are placed with different farmers all around the globe in a bid to find out which one will grow up to be the biggest of them all - and ultimately the most succulent. Later Swinton number one gives way to her equally gung-ho sibling.

Okja is placed in a land faraway (the mountains of South Korea) and has an idyllic relationship with Mija, frolicking in wooded valleys and streams without a care in the world.

The corrupt forces of darkness intrude in to the idyll when a party is sent to bring her to New York for a publicity jamboree to enhance the company’s profile, as well as seeking to impregnate her in a laboratory which together with the eventual slaughter-house look like a scenes out of Dante’s hell.

Bong (Snowpiercer and The Host) keeps it all on the move with immense visual flair, innumerable chases and excellent effects. The performances mainly hit the right notes especially Swinton and a prissy Shirley Henderson as her assistant but Gyllenhaal is too over the top for comfort as the TV vet.

Bong tackles his themes with a sense of conviction and the innocent outrage shared by his young protagonist, which should make most viewers baulk at the prospect of a pork chop or a sausage for a long time to come.

Reviewed on: 19 May 2017
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Young girl Mija must risk everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend - a massive animal named Okja.

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writer: Bong Joon Ho, Jon Ronson

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Ahn Seo-Hyun, Byun Hee-Bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yun Je-mun, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-sik, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lynn Marocola, Myles Humphus

Year: 2017

Runtime: 118 minutes

Country: US, South Korea


Cannes 2017
EIFF 2017

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