I've only see one of Bong Joon Ho's films in Snowpiercer, a movie a loved so much that I've watched it a half dozen times as well as with friends unaware of it's awesome depth through simplicity of locations. That makes Okja a kind of surprise as it is a much more sprawling film that is part heist, corporate and societal satire, and story of family.
It is certainly an enjoyable if off beat film. There are a lot of tones running through the film. From a drunken washed up animal celebrity, a corporate head who sells the “new era” schtick to its customers. a group out to save animals from the slaughterhouse and a girl just looking to keep her super pig friend she has grown up with. It is a lot to juggle and it sort of works. The tone shifting can be a bit much at times as it will go from something rather silly to quite serious and the tones don't always mix well.
I liked the themes it was playing with and showing the ugly side of both corporations and also those looking to take down those corporations, whether it be for money or person convictions no one is perfect when it comes to their handling of Okja, aside from Mija who clearly just loves Okja and treats her as any other family member would. It didn't feel too preachy and instead poked fun or vilified when appropriate.
The acting was simply sensational. Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito, An Seo-Hyun and the incredible Jake Gyllenhaal all breathe such life into their characters, creating an eclectic mix of simple lives and far out capitalists. The juxtaposition of those in power in America and those in the mountains of Korea is the main conflict in the film and having Okja be the catalyst for a separate story of animal cruelty was a great way to drive that message home, making the story feel like that of King Kong but on a much more personal and realistic scale.
The cinematography was stellar, with fantastic lighting, sweeping camera movements and excellent framing and blocking from Bong Joon Ho. The sets and locations were equally a joy and prove that it's not just directors that make a movie but a group of very talented individuals to bring the world of Okja to life, including Okja herself, with some rather stellar CG considering the reported budget of $50 million.
A beautifully shot and realized world coupled with some great and eccentric performances make for something off beat and mostly enjoyable. Even if the tones don't always go so well together the attempt is a solid one and is elevated by the technical craft and acting chops of those involved.