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Other // R // July 16, 2021
List Price: Unknown
The thrillers that follow a character's journey after their loved one has been taken has become quite common. The demise of a puppy in John Wick or the family of Liam Neeson's character in Taken instantly come to mind. These films have simple goals in mind for their protagonists, which are often referred to in memes across social media. At a glance, Pig looks like it will follow in the footsteps of those films. However, it manages to take a similar plot, but add more substance in unexpected ways. Similar to John Wick, Pig is really good in ways that are unexpected.
Director and co-writer Michael Sarnoski and co-writer Vanessa Block make their feature debut with Pig. The film follows Rob (Nicolas Cage), who lives alone in the the wilderness of Oregon along with his pig. He works as a truffle hunter, with Amir (Alex Wolff) occasionally coming by to do business. A group of unknown assailants bust into Rob's home, beat him, and steal his foraging pig. Now, he must face his past in Portland in order to retrieve his beloved pig. While Amir drives him from one place to another, he begins to discover Rob's past and why he moved into the middle of nowhere to begin with. This adventure twists and bends their connection in all sorts of intriguing ways.
The audience makes many of the discoveries about Rob at the same time as Amir. However, the energy projected by many of the characters are often quite different from what's looming underneath the surface. Even in the toughest of people, there's something that can break them down. The past and its memories have a lot of power in this story. Depending on how each character works with them, these memories are either the core of their strength or their greatest weakness. In the case of Pig, it's best to never judge a book by its cover.
Between reading the initial plot on paper, the ominous looking poster, and the casting of Nicolas Cage, this could have easily turned into an over-the-top action/thriller. However, the film surprises with its high level of restraint. While retrieving a pig is the mission, it's not necessarily the meat of what's being told in this story. This is a character piece through and through with a message about love, loss, and change. Cage turns in an excellent performance as Rob. It's such a subtle performance with a whole lot of nuance. Rob is a man of few words, but the words that he does speak have meaning. Pig is a very personal film that lands quite the impact.
Coupled with Patrick Scola's cinematography, Sarnoski has a beautiful film here. It's a well-shot film that successfully captures the journey ahead. It's generally a bit darker, with the use of a lot of browns. However, there are appropriate moments of warmth that accurately fulfill the character's journeys. Sarnoski and Block's screenplay has the occasional quick moment of humor, truly building a world that feels undeniably human. With only a 92-minute runtime, Pig is a taut drama with elements of thriller in there.
Other than seeing some promotional materials, I went into Pig without too much knowledge on what was to come. Cage has become associated with some pretty crazy performances over the years, although this film shows another side of him that we haven't seen in quite some time. It's sentimental, powerful, and a real treat of an experience; this is Cage's best performance in years. There's a lot to unpack in this film. Pig is the type of controlled and elevated drama that sticks with you.