In the last decade, no other actor has had the work ethic of Nicolas Cage nor the sheer eclectic selection of roles. From generic action movies to genuine cult curios like Mandy and Color Out Of Space, Cage has moved across the spectrum delivering performances from quiet and lowkey to broad and expansive. In doing so he’s become a cult figure and an oft-used internet meme, but we often overlook the fact that Cage is – and has always been – a brilliant actor. This is proven once again by Pig, a drama with a ferocious emotionality. Cage’s performance is quiet, powerful and filled with complex detail. It’s powerful.
In Michael Sarnoski’s film, Cage plays Rob, a truffle hunter living in self-isolation in the Oregonian wilderness. When his beloved foraging pig is kidnapped, he must venture into Portland where he has to face the past from which fled fifteen years prior.
Those expecting a John Wick style action extravaganza will be sorely disappointed by Pig. It’s a contemplative film about loss. Cage’s Rob is a former genius high-end chef who has walked away from a glittering career. His gift is exquisite, but he’s turned his back on it and his relationship with his pig is his lone emotional connection. The other relationship he has is with Alex Wolff’s Amir – the young food supplier to whom Rob sells his truffles. It’s hardly a friendship, but they soon become closer when Amir helps Rob on his quest to find his pig.
Co-written by Michael Sarnoski and Vanessa Block, Pig is a well-drawn character study which throws Cage’s Rob and Wolff’s Amir together. Both men have very different emotional hang-ups and together they’re able to find some sort of healing. As a director, Sarnoski keeps things uncomplicated and he lets the performances do the heavy lifting. Everyone in the cast excels – but Cage really rises to the challenge of the material. He doesn’t rely on his usual ticks and tricks, but he finds an internal resonance with the character which is filled with abject sadness. It’s a contemplative turn and it’s one of Nicolas Cage’s best performances.
On paper, the set-up for Pig may lead to eye-rolling and chuckles, but it’s a film with a lot of integrity and a strong emotional core. It uses the pig theft as a well of setting the character work in motion and like a good chef, this brings the elements together to create something tasty, edifying and very memorable.