Makes you want to reconsider having that meat for dinner.

Okja is a powerful message film, yet is also a remarkable fantasy story of a girl and her pig.  There are so many places where the story stretches credibility, but I defy you to not feel that punch to your gut by the end of the movie.

Appearing on Netflix, Okja is the new film from acclaimed director of Snowpiercer, The Host and Mother, Bong Joon-ho, and this has a serious message that animal lovers will grab a hold tightly.

For the past ten years, the super pig Okja was being raised by the family of Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn) in the mountains of South Korea.  They were one of several families given a super pig to raise by the family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation whose CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) patiently waited for the super pigs to come of proper age for the best tasting meat.  Mija and Okja bond over the years becoming more than farmer-livestock.  They were family.

So when Mirando Corportation’s “face” of the company, Johnny Wilcox (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrives to reclaim the super pig, Mija’s world is turned upside down and the plucky little girl starts off on an adventure to reclaim her family member.

She finds unexpected assistance from an eco-terrorist group known as the A.L.F (Animal Liberation Front), led by Jay (Paul Dano) and K (Steven Yeun).

This movie has multiple tones and they weave within each other in an effective manner.  Much of the film is an action story, with dramatic, albeit difficult to believe action set pieces, but the film transitions into a message film focusing on big corporation and their cruelty to animals for the meat.  There are some cringe-inducing moments throughout- including the removal of meat from a living animal (Okja herself) for samples of the meat.

And the ending of this movie is about as gut wrenching as you are going to get.

Tilda Swinton’s performance is transcendent as the CEO of this corporation.  She has so much depth and damage from her life, you almost feel sorry for her.  Then, she does something heartless and you go back to hating her.  It is truly a stupendous performance which takes an unexpected turn in the third act that you won’t see coming.

All of the performances are strong here, including Paul Dano and Steven Yeun.  Seo-Hyun Ahn is a warrior in this film and the little girl is every bit as amazing as anyone else.  However, Jake Gyllenhaal truly steals every scene he is in as the bizarre Johnny Wilcox.  He was another character that you nearly start to like, only to have him do something that makes you hate him again.

I can’t talk about the ending without spoiling the film, but I must say that the end of the movie really tainted a lot of what I was thinking about the film.  I am still not sure how I feel about the result of the film.

The film is very funny.  It has exciting adventure with some great action.  A lot of the action stretches the bounds of credibility, but nothing unlike many other action films.  There are great performances with an ending that can not help but make you think.  This is one of the better original Netflix films available to stream.

4 stars

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