The synopsis for Michael Sarnoski’s Pig could be taken in a variety of ways, especially when factoring in that at the centre of it all is Nicolas Cage, a wildly unpredictable actor who, when not throwing himself into easy paycheque territory with straight-to-DVD fare, is still immensely capable of turning in performances that remind us why he can still be considered one of the greatest actors of his generation.
The idea that the stealing of a truffle pig is enough to centre a whole movie around has a very Nicolas Cage feel to it, the actuality that Pig is ultimately a deep character study is less of a given though. But that’s how Sarnoski has framed this incredibly evocative drama, transforming Cage into an almost-hermit whose sole reason to maintain survival is due to his prized pig.
Over the course of the film we start to uncover more about Cage’s reclusive Rob, learning of his time as a much sought-after chef and the eventual tragedy that drove him to a life of desolation. More than just a pet and a source of income, the titular pig proves to be a true companion to Rob, and when she is stolen – in a brief but intense home invasion sequence – the determination to get her back is fuelled not by revenge but to reclaim a very true, unique relationship.
What easily could have been an exaggerated, over-the-top narrative remains consistently sombre, and never once does Cage overtly lose his temper or devour the scenery around him. Instead, he’s so masterfully still, making the moments he breaks down in anguish over this situation all the more effective. He’s also incredibly well supported by a minimalistic cast, namely Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin as, respectively, Amir and Darius, a smarmy client and his food supplier father who learn first-hand the value of Rob’s pig.
Those hoping for “fun Cage” best look elsewhere as Pig, despite the title and premise, is a cerebral offering that revels in its power and its ability to intimidate in the most subtle of manners. Sarnoski, making his debut here, has delivered one of the year’s finest films, serving us all with a reminder of how masterful an actor Cage can be.
Pig is now screening in select Australian theatres