- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Okja

| June 30, 2017

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Okja.

I’m going to make an effort to not talk about Netflix in this review because it isn’t necessary. With all the talk about the premiere of this film at Cannes Film Festival, the debate of is this actually a film or is this a television movie has sparked. But at the same time, who cares? If a release is what determines a film’s legitimacy then that’s kind of stupid. Some of the best films are never released to theaters, whether they be just on HBO, Netflix, or even just straight to VOD. Transformers: The Last Knight had one of the widest releases this year and I don’t think that film is any more a film than this one. So if your definition of a film is determined by where you put your ass before watching it, then maybe re-evaluate what your film priorities are.

Okja is the new film from South Korean Director Bong Joon-Ho, known for Memories of Murder and The Host, or how most American viewers know him as the director of Snowpiercer. Okja follows more of a situation than a character. Okja is about the discovery/invention of a new creature that produces requires less feed, produces less waste, and most importantly tastes amazing. One of these “Super Pigs”, as they are called, is named Okja and is own by a small Korean girl named Mija. The corporation that controls Okja comes and takes Okja away to be slaughtered and Mija ain’t having that. Thus Mija goes across the world to save her pet with the help from various characters along the way.

If you have seen Joon-Ho’s work in the past, you know that he does not shy away from things. His films are often brutal in nature and show things that the audience does not want to see. Okja is no exception to this. And I think I might have trouble recommending this film to animal lovers due to how brutal the film is in terms of the slaughterhouses and all of the stuff that comes with this kind of subject matter. And this isn’t brutal in a Marley & Me kind of way either. This is never a cute thing that becomes tragic, this film is straight tragic from beginning to end. It is very much in line with Joon-Ho’s filmography. So keep that in mind before watching the film because it might not be the feel-good film you are looking for or even the emotional animal film you are looking for.

The acting in the film is incredible. Everyone will be talking about Tilda Swinton playing the head of the corporation and for good reason. Tilda Swinton is incredible in this film, just like she is in every film she takes part in. Ahn Seo-hyun, who plays Mija, is also fantastic in the film and does an amazing job with emoting both silently and verbally. In a film that does the same thing that Scooby-Doo did with the CGI animal, Seo-hyun does an amazing job as does the rest of the cast. The person I want to acknowledge the most, however, is actually Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives probably my favorite performance of 2017 thus far. Is it the best performance of 2017, no, but I had so much fun watching Gyllenhaal perform in this film that he was easily my favorite part of the film. Some describe his performance as campy, but I disagree.

The idea of “campy” has been thrown around for this film for in my opinion no merit. Some have complained that the can’t find a balance between Campiness and Seriousness. Which I don’t believe that there really is a lot of campiness to Okja, I strongly believe that the film is just having fun in certain aspects. For example, Paul Dano leads a group of ecoterrorists. The humor to it is that these are the friendlies terrorists you will ever see. The ecoterrorists in the film were another highlight because the humor with them works so well, and as a heads up, there is an after credits scene with them that has one of the best jokes in the entire film. And there is a look of that “quirky” or “fun” humor to it, but I would never call it campy. Campy implies some kind of poor taste or some kind of irony, neither of which is present in the film. When a film is called Campy, it is usually in defense for something bad in the film, and there is nothing really bad enough in this film to warrant the film being called Campy.

I won’t spoil it, but the ending is I think the best part of the film. The last thirty minutes of the film is easily the best part of the film. There is a scene involving the slaughter house and is haunting and one of the best scenes of the year, and the scene following it is the final scene and that is what I think makes this film. The final scene has the overall melancholic feeling to it. It’s a cold scene when it shouldn’t be. And these two scenes alone show how this is the best-directed film of the year. It isn’t the best film of the year, but it is extremely well done. 

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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