Okja (2 stars)


Cannes 2017: Disappointing satire from Korea's Bong Joon-ho, featuring Tilda Swinton

A girl's best friend is her genetically modified giant pig in Okja, a brash, cartoonish satire from Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho that falls far short of expectations. The very notion of blending an ET-style heart-warmer with a sometimes graphic exploration of industrial-scale food production practices might be a challenge too far for most tastes. Okja makes the mix even harder to swallow by injecting elements of leaden comedy in which star players like Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal have been encouraged to deliver stridently mannered performances that have all the appeal of sharp nails being dragged across a blackboard.

Swinton's all-American Lucy Mirando is the new CEO of a vast agrochemical company and is determined to atone for past crimes by embracing eco-friendly values. The Mirando corporation intends to breed a super pig that can feed the world whilst making a minimal impact on the environment. 26 of the miracle beasts are given to farmers around the globe. In Korea, female specimen Okja becomes the beloved companion of 13-year-old Mija (an endearingly understated An Seo-hyun). When the corporation announces a Super Pig Competition in New York, it is the beginning of an incredible journey in which Mija becomes the feisty defender of her porker with a little help from some animal liberation activists, led by mild-mannered Jay (Paul Dano).

The best thing about Okja is the pig, a lumbering, soft-hearted beast who is as cute as a puppy and the size of a large truck. The seamless special effects that allow the creature to interact with humans and both rural and urban environments are truly impressive. What a shame the rest of the film is such a let-down.

Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2017. Released in selected cinemas and on Netflix from Wed 28 Jun.


  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • South Korea / US
  • 2h
  • Directed by: Bong Joon-Ho
  • Cast: Ahn Seo-Hyun, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano
  • UK release: 28 June 2017

Lucy (Swinton) is the CEO of a vast agrochemical company which is developing an environmentally friendly super-pig, but 13-year-old Mija (Ahn, endearingly understated) befriends one. Brash, cartoonish satire with great special effects but mannered performances from Swinton and Gyllenhaal, which uneasily tries to mix an ET…