Drama, corporate satire, emotional tear-jerker, comedy, allegory, fantasy, savage indictment of the food industry, grim fairy-tale, action movie – this film from 2017 directed by Bong Joon Ho is one of those movies I defy you to stop watching from the moment it begins – yeah, it’s that good.
I’m recovering from surgery here so it’s pretty much a movie a day, and watching this reminds me just how powerful the medium can be in the hands of a gifted filmmaker firing on all cylinders.
In the last few years I have become a huge fan of South Korean cinema; whatever caused the cultural explosion of talent in their movie industry in the last 20 years or so shows no sign of stopping. Bong Joon Ho is on fire – his latest film “Parasite” (which I have not yet seen) is at the top of many critics lists as the best movie of 2019.
But Okja was just so entertaining and thoughtful that I watched it dumbfounded – laughing and crying in slack-jawed wonderment, saying to myself every ten minutes or so, This is so fucking good.
The first half of the movie was shot in the South Korean countryside and it’s unbelievably beautiful and engaging. The second half moves to the U.S. with the child protagonist Seo-hyeon Ahn and Okja; Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jake Gyllenhaal are all hugely entertaining, but the movie really belongs to Seo-hyeon Ahn and Okja.
There is just such a strong sense of deep humanity running through current South Korean cinema; this movie is a great example. What Bong Joon Ho captures here is nothing short of magic.