For 10 idyllic years, young Mija (An Seo Hyun) has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja-a massive animal and an even bigger friend-at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when a family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where image obsessed and self-promoting CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) has big plans for Mija's dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission, but her already daunting journey quickly becomes more complicated when she crosses paths with disparate groups of capitalists, demonstrators and consumers, each battling to control the fate of Okja...while all Mija wants to do is bring her friend home. Deftly blending genres, humor, poignancy and drama, Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) begins with the gentlest of premises-the bond between man and animal-and ultimately creates a distinct and layered vision of the...Written by
There is a mistranslation on the English subtitles when K played by Steven Yeun is about to jump out of the truck. According to the subtitles, his parting words to Mija are "Mija! Try learning English. It opens new doors!" What he actually says is "Mija! Also, my name is Koo Soon-bum." It's a flagrant mistranslation - but one that would only be apparent to those who can speak both languages. Moreover, the mistranslation is a clever subversion of the supremacy of English. The subtitle is a command to learn English - something that every Korean student has heard throughout her life - but to actually understand what K is saying, you would have to know Korean. There's an added layer of comedy to the name itself, which has the whiff of the old country about it: "Koo Soon-bum" is sort of like a white man saying his name is "Buford Attaway." As Yeun said in an interview, "When he says 'Koo Soon-bum,' it's funny to you if you're Korean, because that's a dumb name. There's no way to translate that. That's like, the comedy drop-off, the chasm between countries." See more »
[to camera while descending industrial stairway]
Oh, thank you! What a terrific crowd! Welcome to my inauguration! I'm Lucy, Lucy Mirando, of the Mirando Corporation. Welcome to my grandfather's old factory. Now, I know, we all know, that Grandpa Mirando was a terrible man.
We know of the atrocities he committed in this space. We know these walls are stained with the blood of fine working men. But today, I reclaim this space, to tell you a beautiful story. Now the ...
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Another distinctive film from Bong Joon-ho about wholesome values vs. society's self-interest
A teenage girl wants nothing more than to remain with her lifelong pet and companion – the super pig Okja – in Korean auteur Bong Joon- ho's latest film. Everything else is just stuff that gets in the way.
Bong delivers one of Netflix's better high profile original films in "Okja," a quirky yet topical yet big-hearted film. Similar to Bong's 2006 breakout film "The Host," a monster movie about a doltish dad who will do anything to rescue his daughter, "Okja" plays to family themes (a girl and her pet) but presents them through a mature, adult lens (corporate greed, environmentalism, genetic science).
So the context of "Okja" is complicated, but the story is quite simple and human. 14-year-old Mija (An Seo-hyun) has lived with her grandfather on a mountainside farm in South Korea for most of her life with Okja, a super pig gifted to the farm by Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) and the Mirando Corporation as part of a competition to develop the pigs as a non-GMO food source to help fight hunger. When the corporation and super pig judge Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) come to collect, Okja is clearly the finest of the super pigs in the world, and they endeavor to take her to New York City. Mija follows them to Seoul and attempts to get her friend back, coming up against the corporation and a group of animal rights activists, all of which have different agendas for Okja.
Hilarious and deeply disturbing, violent but also quite warm, Bong has created another distinctive film that makes him one of the most interesting filmmakers that not enough people are talking about. The mixed bag of tones will certainly turn off viewers who aren't sure what to do with a film that doesn't fit in any one neatly labeled genre box, those with an open mind will appreciate the way he tells extremely accessible stories that address complicated themes.
Okja means a lot of things to a lot of people: friendship and stability to Mija; money, science and reputation to the Mirando Corporation; injustice and corporate greed to the animal liberation group; and affordable food to the masses. The plot is essentially these competing interests sorting themselves out.
Part of what makes "Okja" distinctive is the caricaturized supporting roles that make everything feel just a shade unusual. As she did in Bong's last film, "Snowpiercer," Swinton so effortlessly creates a wildly larger than life character portrait that simultaneously feels grounded in reality. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, is infuriatingly grating as the eccentric loose cannon TV personality, but his character is a signal to the audience of how to look at and think of the world of the film.
Bong has such a specific perspective on society that comes through in way subtle and not in "Okja." He brilliantly whittles the story down to one pivotal moment at the end, and the outcome of all this chaos suggests he's neither pessimistic nor optimistic. Perhaps he would argue that it's not his business to come down one way or another, but simply to use a giant hippo-like pig to at least prove that our world is majorly – and maybe unnecessarily – complicated
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