Netflix’s recent run of genre-hopping, tonally-mixed movies may have thrown up several notable failures, but at least the signs suggest that the platform is committing to creating interesting and unusual work with interesting directors, for the most part; one wonders what kind of freedom they are being afforded in relation to directors of similar repute working for more established, traditional studios. Every now and again there’s bound to be a success like Bong Joon-ho’s latest Okja, which seems to have been well received generally, despite those boos by (ironically) pig-headed cineastes at Cannes; in fact Bong has been quite vocal with his praise for the Netflix experience, though it’s hardly surprising given what happened with Miramax and Snowpiercer, which to this day remains unreleased in the UK (though of course there are ways and means of seeing it).
Okja is a mix of Spielbergian fantasy and adventure, light corporate satire and angry condemnation of the food industry, featuring at its heart the relationship between a young Korean girl and a genetically-modified, highly-intelligent giant (CGI) pig. Not all of it works, but it does at least hold your attention for two hours and it includes a couple of decent-ish performances (Seo-Hyeon Ahn and Paul Dano) as well as a couple of laughably over the top but watchable clangers (Tilda Swindon, Jake Gyllenhaal). Some bits are very sad indeed, some bits are high-octane fun, some bits are poorly plotted and certain scenes, performances and key messages jar awkwardly with others. But overall there’s something about its messiness and Bong’s exuberant desire to try on hats of all shapes and sizes that I like. I hope Netflix continues to take risks instead of playing it safe, even if it does mean this has to sit alongside intriguing but ultimately duff releases like War Machine and The Discovery. (***)