Pig has an unalluring title but don’t let that stop you from seeing a career-defining performance from Nicolas Cage in a story about a truffle hunter recluse living in the wilderness who goes on a mission back to the city to find his beloved pig after she is kidnapped. With a simple yet weird story executed with an impressively raw performance from Cage and absorbing cinematography, Pig surprised me by being one of the best dramatic films I’ve seen this year.
Rob (Nicolas Cage) lives a simple and solitary life away from society deep in the forests of Oregon. With the help of his truffle-finding pig, he forages for the fungi, which he then trades with Amir (Alex Wolff) – a young businessman – for weekly deliveries of supplies. One night, Rob’s home is violently broken into and his beloved pig companion taken from him.
The injured and extremely dishevelled Rob enlists the help of the well-groomed and car-owning Amir to help track down and find the kidnapped pig. But what starts as a seemingly simple task that takes our duo into the refined, urban society that Rob has spent the last 15 years staying away from, becomes more sinister as they delve into the dark and dangerous underworld of the Portland culinary elite.
Nicolas Cage is in full form with his intense, raw and moving portrayal of a once renown and influential chef turned hermit after experiencing the loss of his wife. He masterfully creates a layered and nuanced character who can initially be judged and dismissed as an anti-social, crazy homeless-looking man. But underneath the unkept beard and dirty clothes is a grieving widower, driven by his love for his animal companion and a different view of the world and our place in it.
While the pacing of the film is quite slow with a story that’s pretty simple, Cage’s presence coupled with fantastic cinematography was enough to keep me mesmerized and invested with the journey of his character. I wouldn’t be surprised if this role garners him a few accolades. Dare I say an Oscar nomination?
Offsetting the grubby truffle hunter is Amir, the young, clean-cut, entrepreneurial businessman played perfectly by Alex Wolff. Completely at odds with the hermit who collects the truffles for his business, Amir is materialistic, sociable and trying to get ahead in the urban world of business. Because he is the exact opposite of Rob – especially with his lack of wisdom and life experience – he makes for the ideal onscreen companion for his dirty passenger.
Wolff perfectly compliments Cage as their completely polarizing personas feed off each other to help create some of the conflict in the slow paced story while also allowing the characters to grow and learn from each other.
Writer / Director Michael Sarnoski makes his feature directorial debut with Pig and has done an amazing job delivering a powerful drama based on a simple and at times weird premise. What’s more impressive is knowing that this great piece of filmmaking was made with such a low budget they couldn’t even afford a professionally trained pig (which ended up biting Cage multiple times) and had to film everything right the first time because they couldn’t afford reshoots or delays.
Sarnoski has successfully wrung powerful performances from his cast – particularly in moments with no dialogue – while capturing it all with beautiful cinematography. All of this draws you in and holds your attention with a story that would not normally keep my interest (read my other reviews and you know I’m generally an action and horror guy). It’s a primal viewing experience where emotion drives the film more than the story.
Pig isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s slow, it’s a bit weird, it’s got a crap title and there’s not much happening with the plot. But it’s a beautifully filmed movie with undercurrents of satire and drama that’s worth checking out simply for the atmosphere and easily one of the finest performance that Nicolas Cage has ever given. An easy recommendation.