Review: 'Pig' (2021) Dir. Michael Sarnoski
Putting the synopsis of a man losing his truffle pig and actor Nicolas Cage together may conjur some bizzare images, but a surprisingly simple premise is used for a surprisingly simple drama...
Robin "Rob" Feld (Cage) is a former chef turned truffle hunter, living and working in the isolated Oregon woodland with his pet foraging pig. Something of a reculse, Rob has a deal selling truffle to young restaurant entrepreneur Amir (Wolff).
One night, Rob is suddenly attacked and his pig is kidnapped by a couple of unknown thugs. The pig is not just Rob's source of income and way of working, but also his best friend, and it appears he has been targeted by a rival.
With Amir as his only lead in the outside world, Rob sets out on a path of great uncertainty to find the ones who have stolen his pig and find out why. The two must act fast before Rob loses everything he holds dear...
Nicolas Cage stars as a man hunting down his kidnapped truffle pig.
At one time, that would have been an absurd plot synopsis, but in 2021 it sounds very reasonable and somewhat expected from the eclectic Cage. Following on from his recent quirky offerings such as Willy's Wonderland and Color Out of Space, this is none the more quirky but in a refreshingly different way not totally expected. Nothing but original in terms of narrative, Michael Sarnoski (in his directoral debut) and Vanessa Block take charge of writing a story about one mans' return to a rather bleak and uncertain society all to look for his pet pig, a truffle hunter, that was kidnapped. Or pig-napped. Sorry.
Cage plays isolated truffler former Rob who was once a famous Portland chef. Shrouded in a mystery as to what led to his fall from grace, but how everyone knows his name, we only see Rob as a bedraggled, bearded loner living in a woodland hut away from anyone and everything with only his pet pig for company. Yet that company is torn apart when the pig is stolen by unknown thugs, leading Rob to return to a place and people full of dark memories in search of the culprit.
This could well be one of the best roles Cage has taken on in years, as it's so different to what is expected. No manaicial outbursts of rage / joy / passion, no surprising violence or comical gore, no gimicks or comedy - just a loner who will do anything to find his pig. The peace Cage introduces you to in the opening minutes is somewhat beautiful - just the sounds of nature as we understand the simple life Rob and his pig lead. In doing this, he conveys so much about a character that you can't help to be invested in and learn to feel sorry for. Not for who he is, but what he is suffering, and that's all down to Cage's toned down performance that really hits a rare emotional level.
Cage nails the role with a quiet pathos and emotion unlike anything he's done in recent years, thanks to a powerful directoral debut and unique script by Sarnoski.
Without even trying to (Pig was filmed in late 2019) there are subtle moments where we can understand Rob a lot more in this COVID world we live in. He has to find a confidence in himself to return to society, content with his own company and unsure of what now lies out in a busy, bustling and often dangerous world. He has to discover many experiences again, and even talking to a young child living in the house he once owned is very simple and basic in execution, but very sweet and honest in how it plays out
Alex Wolff is Amir, a young man trying to make a successful career and life in Portland with his flashy contacts and quality offering to the restaurant trade; thanks to Rob and his truffle supply. Amir is easy to like; not invested any dark dealings or corruption or underworld antics, even though he walks and acts like a Godfather of the streets.
Wolff adds another aspect to the journey to seek the pig, sharing some great screentime with Cage and establishing a relationship that has strong foundations. It's clear the two have a solid bond despite their differences as characters, and make an enjoyable pairing for two opposite ends of a social spectrum. And filmed across Portland, we see some great locations around the city in day and night that add to the juxtapositioning of Cage's loner in a world he now doesn't belong in.
Camera shots aren't afraid to linger on simple frames of our characters so we aren't distracted by unnecessary edits or odd angles. This lets us settle into the locations and listen to the conversations, all with very effective mood lighting to compliment - a sequence between Cage and October Moore in a small bakery is evidence of this peaceful style of film-making used.
These things and more come together thanks to Sarnoski's brilliant direction. Why do our characters act as they do? What are the motivations that push them? Where will their choices take them? It's a fascinating watch and you can't help root for a tirumphant outcome, because there are no druglords or violent offenders here; it's an industry pig-napping and you want to find out just why she was kidnapped and by whom.
Sarnorski doesn't go for out-there absurdity or art-house narrative, even with such a potentially silly story as hunting a pig. Rob's truffle pig search underlines the story and the places they go, but Sarnoski's script and direction focus on the human journeys taken and self-discovery made by the characters they meet and encounter. It's not a comical search for a pet pig - it's about searching for companionship, for friendship, for understanding and belonging.
This is a story that can, and should, be experienced by the masses because it offers so much more than expected, and is brought to the screen with simplicity from the cast and crew from it's tranqul opening to it's touching outcome.
Sounding surreal on the outset, but sensible in execution, 'Pig' is an often touching drama that delivers underlying tension, grounded emotion and the best performance in decades by Nicolas Cage.
'Pig' is a co-production between AI Film, Endeavor Content, Pulse Films, BlockBox Entertainment, Valparaiso Pictures and Saturn Films