Friday, 30 June 2017

Film Review: "Okja" (2017).

A Netflix original movie by Bong Joon-ho. This is Okja. This American-South Korean action-adventure film directed by Bong, and co-written by Bong and Jon Ronson. A young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend - a massive animal named Okja.

In October 2015, it was announced that director Bong Joon-ho's next film will feature a South Korean female lead and a cast of English-speaking supporting actors, with filming set in New York. In November 2015 it was picked up by Netflix and Plan B Entertainment with a budget of $50 million, with production starting in late 2016 for release in 2017. Bong sought out Welsh author Jon Ronson to rewrite the script. Working with a rough draft of the story, Ronson helped develop the English-speaking characters. Principal photography began in April 2016, locations included Seoul, South Korea, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Director Bong Joon-ho has called Okja "a very shy and introverted animal. It's a unique animal that we've not seen before." This is very clear from a single watch of the film, wherein we are shown repeatedly that Okja's level of intelligence is far above that of any cat or dog, despite her large size and original appearance. Okja was modelled after pigs and manatees.

The film generated some controversy after being selected for the competition line-up of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, due to the fact that, as Netflix productions, they wouldn't receive a theatrical release in France after the festival. Netflix did try to make a deal with French distributors and cinema chains for a limited release prior to the streaming premiere, but this was hindered by very strict French laws which prevent any film that's released in cinemas from being available on a streaming service prior to 36 months after the original theatrical release date. Although both films were retained in the competition line-up, the festival did respond to the controversy by amending its rules, specifying that all filmmakers and producers submitting their work for consideration for the competition must be committed to obtaining regular theatrical distribution in France. When the movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, the audience began to boo when the Netflix's title card was shown in the opening credits, they then followed up by showing the first 10 minutes of the film in the wrong ratio causing more booing. The film was played again from the beginning with even louder boos when the Netflix's title card was shown for the second time.

The film stars an ensemble cast headed by South Korean child actress Ahn Seo-hyun, alongside Hollywood actors Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal. The performances given the cast were as unique and multilayered as you would expect from a Bong Joon-ho film.

Bong Joon-ho's Okja is a socially-conscious genre hybrid about the cruelty and the inhumanity of corporate manipulation of nature that is consumed everyday within our society. An international action-adventure, a political satire, and an unusual and touching love story, Bong Joon-ho's latest is a subversive blast.

Simon says Okja receives:

Also, see my review for Snowpiercer.

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