It’s safe to say that Nicolas Cage really is having a wild resurgence as of late, particularly following the more bonkers flicks such as Mandy, Colour out of Space, Prisoners of the Ghostland and Willy’s Wonderland. So when the first trailer for Pig was released, featuring a grizzled and bloodied Cage uttering “who has my pig?” with a menacing rage, many were excited for the actor’s next over the top performance. However, this flick isn’t quite what we all expected, and in many ways – that’s the beauty of it.
Directed by Michael Sarnoski, Pig centres on former chef turned truffle forager named Robin (Nicolas Cage), who lives in the remote woods of the Pacific Northwest with just his truffle pig for company. His only connection to the outside world is with young truffle dealer Amir (Alex Wolff), who arrives once a week in his yellow Camaro and suit to pick up Robin’s bounty, along with anything he needs from the outside world. That’s until Robin is brutally beaten and his prized pig (and best friend) is stolen, forcing him to return to society in search of his truffle partner with, Amir in tow.
Going into this film only really knowing the basic outline of the plot made for an interesting experience, as my initial expectations of a John Wick-esque revenge thriller where quickly dashed – which may disappoint some. This surprising directorial debut from Sarnoski is a much more considered and mature outing, unravelling as a deeply meditative exploration of love, loss and artistry. The quietly contemplative character study proves a slow-burn and emotionally resonant tale as you accompany the pair on their journey, which in turn forces both to confront their past in a search for peace, following significant losses. The well-crafted script teases clues to their backstory throughout the foodie-inspired title chapters, and yet doesn’t hold the audiences hand, as you’re left to connect the dots. Sarnoski also cleverly subverts the usual expectations of the genre, opting for a more restrained quest as the two pursue various leads in the local culinary scene, then succumbing to brutal violence.
This is by far the best performance from Nic Cage for a long while now, his portrayal is surprisingly understated and reserved, with a distinct less-is-more approach. Cage conveys the character’s unexpected emotional depth predominantly through facial expressions and gestures due to the paired down script, and it remarkably works. “We don’t get a lot of things to really care about” Cage soulfully comments, and it’s one of the most moving deliveries I’ve seen this year. Co-star Alex Wolff balances Cage’s understated performance with a charming naivety of someone who’s way out of their depth, but still determined (and intrigued) to help out when he can. Despite the external bravado and flashy car, there’s an emotional weight to Wolff’s truffle dealer, which the actor does well to gradually reveal. Adam Arkin is also impressively commanding as Amir’s business rival, who he shares a certain connection with.
While Sarnoski pairs down on the script, he relies on the core performances paired with Patrick Scola’s sumptuous cinematography, in a real visual treat. The idyllic Oregonian wilderness is beautifully framed, juxtaposed with the clinical and opulent settings of the high-end restaurants the central pair visit in their pursuit. The director also opts for extended shots capturing the unspoken, whether that’s an impressively emotive exchange between Arkin and Cage, or merely Cage’s hair dancing in the breeze, set to the low-key score courtesy of Alexis Grapsas and Philip Klein.
An unexpected and compelling character study, Pig proves a highbrow springboard for Nicolas Cage’s best performance in years.