Sublime Pig a Rare Cinematic Delicacy
While one can second guess many of his choices as to which films to be a part of, as far as I’m concerned Nicolas Cage remains one of the great actors working today. The man never phones it in. He never takes a second of his screen time for granted. He never cheats the audience as far as his performance is concerned.
Whether it be the sterling highs of Joe, Mom and Dad, Mandy and Color Out of Space,or the goofily mind-numbing lows of Primal, Kill Chain and Trespass, Cage’s fiercely focused determination to do the extraordinary never wavers. For that reason alone I will continue to watch anything and everything he appears in, no matter how heinous or magnificent it may turn out to be.
Put director Michael Sarnoski’s sublime debut Pig in the latter category. Not only is this small, valiantly touching drama an emotionally spellbinding winner, it also features one of the greatest performances in Cage’s long, award-winning career. This is a haunting turn I am guaranteed to be talking about for the remainder of 2021, and I can’t imagine how anyone could walk out of the theater after this one ends not feeling exactly the same.
Rob (Cage) is a quiet, solitary man living deep in the Oregon wilderness. He is a truffle hunter, his only companion a foraging pig who helps him eke out a living. The two are inseparable, and whomever Rob was in the past, whatever dreams or desires he once held dear, none of that matters anymore, and the only thing that does is the man’s beloved pet porker.
Faster than you can say, “John Wick,” Rob is assaulted and his pig is stolen. With the aid of Amir (Alex Wolff), an annoying youngster who shows up periodically to buy truffles, he is forced to return to Portland for the first time in years. Soon they are traipsing through the unknown haute cuisine underworld, and it quickly turns out this introverted woodsman isn’t the disheveled hermit he appears to be.
As odd as that synopsis might be, Sarnoski’s intentions are far less quirkily zany. This feature doles out information in tiny, almost imperceptible droplets, delivering hints as to Rob’s mysterious past and why so many hold him in such high regard while others shiver in terror at the mention of his name. But none of these reveals feel false or inauthentic. More to the point, some of the mystery surrounding this iconoclast remains stubbornly intact, Sarnoski allowing the audience to assemble the remaining pieces any way they choose.
Cage is magnificent. This is a restrained, intuitively measured portrait of a lost man rediscovering forgotten facets of himself as he goes on this surreal trek through a world he left in the rearview mirror ages ago. Rob is a soulful enigma whose pain is born from distinctly human turmoil, all of which is instantly relatable. Eschewing many of the colorful histrionics, both physical and verbal, that have all been that actor’s trademark for almost four decades, Cage is nonetheless still extraordinary in ways uniquely suited to his borderline unclassifiable talents.
This is not the film I thought it was going to be when I sat down to give it a look. It’s so much better than anything I could have hoped for, and far more intractably soulful and lyrically nuanced in its violent honesty than I ever could have anticipated. Pig runts around in themes as fragile as the truffles Rob and his companion diligently hunt for daily, all of which make this a delicious cinematic delicacy worth feasting upon.
Film Rating: 4 (out of 4)