Okja ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

After the Snowpiercer fiasco (not the movie itself obviously, but the clash of visions between Bong Joon-ho and the Weinsteins) it seemed odd that Bong would go on to make a movie for Netflix. Their productions are niched but not necessarily strong auteur creations, so there was some worry that this would be a bit of a bland compromise. And instead it's the most blunt anti-corporate satire that fits Netflix' self-image of being rebels in a fat cat market. They don't like movies very much, but maybe they don't deserve quite all of the boos.

As usual with Bong there is a wild mix of broad comedy and warm Hallmark moments in a cynical and depressing world. It's possible to find a little corner of happiness as long as you can dodge reality. There's a constant threat of that bubble being invaded and destroyed by the outside world but the fiercest of Bong's protagonists will claw and bite their way through and recreate that bubble. It's a comforting dimension to visit in spite of the depressing honesty.

It's spectacular how well Bong manages to mix the Korean and American actors and environments and making them fit seamlessly. He did the same in Snowpiercer and perhaps both are helped by taking place in a fictional future with some pretty cartoonish characters. Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal are less restrained than what would be comfortable, but it's only because they clash with the more serious characters. It's easy to see a Song Kang-ho in the Gyllenhaal part and it would make perfect sense. But the clash is entirely in the service of the not so subtle satire.

It's easy to sympathize with hard slaps in the face of the meat industry and greedy corporations that see good-will as a PR asset rather than a side-effect of company ethics. This movie does some things that actually shake up the obvious satire though. First of all the most viscerally villainous scenes are really part of the plan that people cheered from the start and not actually villainous. This is somewhat tied to how incredibly positive the ALF activists are portrayed. In almost every other movie these kind of activists end up being ridiculed for their naivety and hypocrisy, but these guys are just mildly flawed heroes. And that leads into Bong using an iconic Obama/Clinton composition for the evil corporate board meeting, as if to point out that all those up in arms over the current state of affairs aren't looking for real positive change the way a few true activists do.

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