Director: Michael Sarnoski
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Adam Arkin, Alex Wolff
In Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut – Pig, Nicolas Cage stars as Rob, a truffle forager who lives quietly in the woods with his faithful hog.
However, after an attack on his cabin in the middle of the night Rob awakens to find his pig missing.
In an effort to be reunited with his beloved truffle finding friend he embarks on a journey from the depths of the woods to the dark underground of the city.
It leads him on a trail through several fine dining establishments, ultimately with the hope of quite literally bringing home the bacon.
Don’t get it twisted though, this isn’t the John Wick style revenge thriller that it could be mistaken for.
Admittedly Cage’s casting alongside the premise could lead some to think that Pig is going to be a high octane action thriller in a similar vein to much of the recent work of Liam Neeson or Keanu Reeves.
This, it is not, and whilst that may disappoint some viewers, what Sarnoski and Cage do serve up in place of that very different film is a carefully constructed and contemplative drama that should still satisfy audiences just as, if not even more thoroughly.
The Story Unfolds Like a Cinematic Menu
Like a starter, main and dessert the narrative is broken up into three distinct parts, all with their own titles, based on meals that Rob and other characters eat throughout the film.
The first part sets the scene well, displaying some beautiful visuals of Rob’s peaceful life in the forest, rivers flow free and sunlight splits the trees as he and his pig search for truffles.
A warm sense of content is palpable, a man at ease with his way of life not wanting to be disturbed or troubled by the outside world.
Unfortunately, this peace is only fleeting for Rob as after the attack he is forced to venture to places that normally he would have no desire to visit, and it’s as we witness this journey we see that there’s more to the narrative than originally meets the eye
What follows is an interesting blend of soft and gentle drama, littered with intriguing dialogue as well as narrative moments that allow for outbursts of energy and action.
Whilst Rob’s more reclusive way of life certainly looked peaceful in the beginning the more we learn about his character and his history the more we can start to piece together that the seemingly at ease exterior appearance of his way of life doesn’t negate the possibility of potential inner turmoil.
The story develops well, unfolding in an often quite relaxed and unphased manner.
Pig very much goes at its own pace, being complimented by the subtle guitar-based sounds of the score but also embracing the classical strings for some of the more dramatic moments.
Overall the film strikes a fine balance between the more gentle and harsh moments of its story and the performances match this balance very well too.
Strong and Silent, Could Pig be Nicolas Cage’s Best Performance?
Cage’s work here results in one of the most expertly restrained performances of his career.
His characters’ intentions and emotions are always conveyed in an unmistakable way despite the fact that Rob is often a quiet man of few words.
One scene, in particular, set in an upmarket restaurant is particularly compelling as Cage delivers an incredibly cutting speech laced with intimidation that will have you hanging on his every word and make you feel like time is standing still.
The film also sees Cage being allowed to exhibit the more unhinged elements seen in many of his previous performances that have become somewhat of a trademark for the actor.
However, all of these moments make complete sense within the context of the narrative and whilst he effortlessly makes these moments convincing it is without a doubt in the more restrained sequences where his performance shines the brightest.
He also has good support from his co-star Alex Wolff, who immediately changes the whole energy of the film after making his first appearance.
His performance works well as a juxtaposition to Cage’s and whilst not focused on with any great amount of detail, enough is done through the screenplay and his portrayal to give his character satisfying development and depth.
Both actors work well to create an engaging chemistry between the characters, bringing with it a certain unpredictable nature that only further enhances the audiences’ viewing experience.
Sarnoski’s Cinematic Sense for Success is Strong
So the strong performances of its cast and its even structure ensure that Pig remains a captivating watch throughout.
Sarnoski has delivered an assured debut, taking a simple premise and building an impressive and more layered narrative around it and in doing so has given us one of Cage’s best performances to date.
At times the increasingly muted approach to the story does inhibit some of the more emotional moments from breaching the screen and affecting the viewers as well as the characters, taking away some of the power the film has.
However, this will be a subjective response and some audiences will easily engage with the emotional elements whilst others will find themselves more unaffected.
Nonetheless, this noticeably subdued nature to the story, rather than the all guns blazing approach some would have no doubt favoured, does showcase Sarnoski’s writing ability, demonstrating creativity and nuance throughout.
Pig is ultimately much more than just a film about a man in search of his four-legged friend, it’s a drama about a man reentering the world he used to be a part of, influencing those around him and facing the truths that have brought him to where he is now.
Achieving this, in no less than his feature debut, Sarnoski has delivered an impressive and attention-grabbing film and whilst it’s not quite the whole hog there’s certainly enough meat on Pig’s cinematic bones to satisfy.
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