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With ‘Okja’, director Bong Joon-ho continues the scathing critique of contemporary globalised society that led to the immense popularity of his previous films like ‘The Host’ (2006) and ‘Snowpiercer’ (2013). Here, the story of a little girl and her (gargantuan, genetically designed) pet pig immerses the viewer in what seems like a pleasant fairy tale – but just as we become comfortable, we are plunged into an intricate, extremely dark world of unbridled capitalism, flagrant corporate irresponsibility, slavery, and the wilful depletion of the world’s natural resources ¬¬– all packaged up in an ego-driven personal vendetta.
As the epicentre of the greed that is destroying the Earth, human dignity, and any sense of justice offered by the social contract, Tilda Swinton provides an unnervingly canny performance – her Lucy Mirando is a twisted, roiling, yet delicate personality made up of the injury of past slights, a blinding need to succeed, and a narcissism that has no bounds, all these nuances somehow contained in a caricature-like being who responds to publicity like a moth racing toward a candle flame.
Swinton’s role – and the film overall – offer a complexity to be contemplated long after viewing the film; its indictment of favouring avarice over compassion is a heady, topical, and necessary message in today’s world.