Okja, written and directed Joon-ho Bong
There are a few things to like about the unusual, provocative, intriguing, valued, well-intentioned Okja.
Yet, “Hell is paved with good intentions”.
And one could find so much to hate in this feature, starting with the excessive, annoying double performance of Tilda Swinton, which it must be said, is supposed to be about monstrous characters, a loathsome couple of twins that are bent on doing anything in order to get money, are ruthless in using their power and as despicable as humans can get.
Then there is Paul Dano, who can have an annoying presence, even when portraying a somewhat positive personage, Jay, and not the repellent preacher from There Will Be Blood, wherein Dano was supposed to represent evil, if not actually one of the Devils out of hell.
The main theme of this motion picture is serious, distressing, traumatizing, dark, heartbreaking, fearsome and present in documentaries, newspapers, and even fiction of outstanding quality.
The recognized, treasured We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by the cherished Karen Joy Fowler is one of the prestigious awards winner to delve into the problem of animal rights, the abuses they suffer, not just at the hands of the meat packing industry, where their suffering is appalling, but also in the tests for the cosmetics, automakers and other industries that torture animals in the name of doubtful scientific benefits.
Okja is a fantastic animal, but this science fiction element is about the only aspect that is not seriously anchored in reality, in fact, the greed, insensitivity of those who want to make money no matter what and who gets killed, trampled in the process is such, that even the idea of creating huge, genetically modified animals in order to get their meat, while oppressing them is not at all hard to believe.
Lucy Mirando aka Tilda Swinton is the CEO of Mirando Corporation and at the debut of the movie she announces a big project which will create super pigs, send them for ten years to various locations in the world, where the firm has offices and have farmers care for the animals, in the most ecological friendly way.
In South Korea, where the protagonist Okja is growing, she is cared for by Mija and her grandfather, they are visited by a former journalist, now public relations representative for Mirando, played with about the same abhorrent exuberance as Swinton by the generally more restrained and effective Jake Gyllenhaal.
Lucy Mirando wants a big splash in the United States, which will help promote and launch the meat that they will sell from the super pigs that they will slaughter; one of them is Okja, as soon as she ends her marketing mission.
The ALF enters the stage, with Paul Dano aka Jay in the role of the leader of a group that wants to help animals, release them and save them from the ordeal which is always their fate in the meat industry facilities, many research laboratories and within this terrifying multinational that wants to kill pigs.
By the way, it is an atrocious thing to know that pigs have an intelligence level that is similar to that of dogs, if not superior and we can only wonder what the super pigs involved in this feature are capable of.
A rather silly twist in the plot involves the Animal Liberation Front talking to Mija about their project of unveiling the truth about the torture of animals within the premises of Mirando and promising that they want to liberate Okja, after she would send videos from the abuse rooms, through a device they would attach to her ear.
The translator is asking the girl if she agrees with this laudable operation, albeit it is going to be dangerous and the answer seems to be yes, although further developments cast a shadow over the incident and the impression can be disheartening, for it seems such a pointless addition to the script.
Unless, this is an opportunity for Dano aka Jay to be repulsive and make the audience annoyed even with those that are supposed to fight for the right values, to be ethical, even if with too much zest and élan.
Anyway, this is just the beginning of a rather awful part, which mixes the abuse of Okja and the other super animals, with the scandalous behavior – and performance- of the Mirando twins, the breakdown or climax of the Nutty Professor Johnny Wilcox in this motion picture and the ridiculous fights within the ALF team.
Okja is about to be slaughtered, but only after suffering shocks from the cattle prod and having meat extracted from her, to be delivered on the plates of consumers who have such a paramount and criminal role in all of this.
When they taste the sausage or hotdog made of superpig meat, they not just like it, but go as far as to declare it the best they have ever had and with this attitude, it would take decades, if not centuries before animals would be spared the atrocities they have been exposed to for millennia.
Some scenes may exhilarate the public, but for some they would not be enjoyable, on the contrary, they could be preposterous, like the clash between Nancy or Lucy Mirando, this cinephil could not tell one from the other of these Furies, and Mija, over the imminent shooting and killing of Okja.
The girl tries hard to get her beloved, huge pet back and as a last resort, she throws a golden piece in exchange for the life of the exhausted, nearly dead beast, Mirando takes it up, places it in her mouth, bites on it, declares it is real and releases her “property”.
One could declare victory over that, or just dismiss this as poor humor and a lesson in how not to write, act, direct a scene…but there are so many.
Nevertheless, professionals that are more knowledgeable have included this picture on a list with the best of 2017 and nominated it for the…Palme D’Or!