‘Pig’ Review: Dir. Michael Sarnoski [Best of 2021]

Nic Cage is an actor that has had one heck of a career. He’s an Academy Award winner, with a ton of high-class performances and films on his CV. But he has also been in some truly awful films, and in recent years has proved himself to be an actor who isn’t afraid to tackle projects with some insane premises. His latest film Pig has a very peculiar synopsis. In Pig, Nicolas Cage plays Rob, a truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness with his beloved truffle pig. Their peaceful life is shattered though when people break in and kidnap the foraging pig. Desperate to be reunited with her, Rob must return to his past in Portland to try and get her back. 

Everything about the synopsis, combined with Cage’s involvement, paints Pig out to be John Wick with a pig. And yet somehow director Michael Sarnoski manages to twist this wacky logline into something super heartfelt and absorbing. Despite initial expectations, Pig is not a revenge flick; there’s little in the way of action, the focus is instead on conversations about food and treating people with respect. The lack of Cage in full crazy mode will deflate some people’s enthusiasm, but his performance here is one of his best in years. His character is similar to many we’ve seen from Cage in the past, an enigmatic stranger drifting through life before something pulls him back into society, but his performance here is allowed to remain stripped back and raw. There’s none of what has become the expected silliness or over the top expressions, meaning that at no point does the inclusion of Cage overshadow the story that is being told. 

Accompanying Cage is the brilliant Alex Wolff. Those that have seen Hereditary will know that he can communicate a lot of information through just a simple look, and Sarnoski uses that ability to keep exchanges to a minimum. Wolff plays Amir, a business associate of Rob, a young man trying to get out of the shadow of his more renowned father. Although not gifted as much screen time as our lead, there is still a lot of complexity to be read within Amir. At first the audience ignores Amir’s importance to the story, seeing him merely as Rob’s sidekick or apprentice. In actuality though he’s hiding some pretty important secrets whilst at the same time offering his own inner torment. Amir is at odds with his father, something having happened between father and son to cause extreme estrangement. In lieu of his true father figure, Amir uses Rob as a surrogate, adding a complex dynamic that surpasses the initially viewed simplicity of their connection. 

Sarnoski leans into the quiet moments to convey his narrative. Although the run time is around the rather short ninety minute mark, there are plenty of drawn out sequences that focus on the little things – a calm flowing river, a drive through the city at night, the cooking of an extravagant meal. Their inclusion induces an almost meditative state that baths the viewer in an oddly serene calmness. On an audio level Sarnoski is content to keep the volume low, with moments as effective silence that help reinforce Pig’s overwhelming melancholic tone. A key story beat involving Cage’s character in anguish is told on mute, allowing the emotion of the scene to really make an impact. This goes against what has become Cage’s trademark screams, and by taking it away, Pig is further marked out as a more serious and dramatic prospect than we’ve seen from the actor in recent years. 

Pig is not exactly the arthouse John Wick that the synopsis might suggest, but this strangely emotional story of love and loss is dangerously seductive. A sombre affair that allows its melancholy and contemplative musings to really marinate. Pig is an absorbing and affecting story that proves that Cage hasn’t fully embraced his public persona just yet and is still more than capable of turning in a serious and emotionally engaging character. Come for the Cage, stay for the commentary on love, loss and loneliness in this very strange, but hugely affecting tale of one man and his pig.

Pig is available to own now.  

This review was first published on THN.