Nothing will prepare you for Nicolas Cage and Pig. The title, along with Cage’s presence, may suggest something grimy or weird, but while this film is a little offbeat, it’s also quite simple and emotional. As a showcase for the Academy Award winner, it’s his best in almost two decades. As a character study, it strikes a chord more will relate to than they initially realize. Plus, this is just a wonderful little movie. Once you realize where it’s going, you’ll be hooked. It all builds to an ending that’s magnificent in its simplicity. The range of emotions that you’ll feel here may well leave you stunned. This is, somehow, one of the best flicks that I’ve seen this year.
Pig is a mini revelation, in many forms. You may well be hungry (more on that later) once you watch it, but you also may cry. That’s due to, in no small part, the vivid work coming from Cage. Everything here is very specific, but also somehow universal. It’s a fine line, but everyone involved walks it with aplomb. It’s truly an accomplished and special film, worthy of heavy praise.
Set in Oregon, we meet Rob (Cage) as he’s going about his life. He lives in the woods with his foraging pig, who he clearly has a lot of affection for. Rob is leading a simple life, collecting truffles and just sort of existing. If not for the oddly delectable meal he makes one night, it would seem like he’s almost a vagrant. That, and the sports car driving Amir (Alex Wolff) who shows up each week to acquire those sought after truffles. It may not seem like much, but it’s the life Rob has seemingly chosen. Then, one night he awakens to discover his beloved pig being kidnapped. He’s beaten severely, but that seems secondary to that theft of his only companion.
Forced out of the wilderness, Rob heads to Portland with Amir, in search of his pig. The truffles are part of fine dining, so the two begin moving about the underground aspect of that world. As they do, we learn more about both, especially in regards to Rob’s past. As they head for a potential confrontation with Darius (Adam Arkin), the stakes become more and more clear for all involved. This is about a pig, yes, but also so much more.
Nicolas Cage has arguably not been this good since Adaptation. His work here stands alongside that and his Oscar-winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas (one of my all-time favorite performances by any actor) as career high points. Cage is brilliant here, crossing John Wick‘s title character with his Ben from Leaving Las Vegas. You’ve never seen him quite like this before, and that’s saying something. Adam Arkin has a small but intense role, while Alex Wolff is again his reliably good self. As far as exciting young actors go, Wolff is up there, for sure. Supporting players include David Knell, but this is really about Cage, through and through. Cage is spectacular and deserves to be feted as a master of his craft, once again.
Director and co-writer Michael Sarnoski, along with co-writer Vanessa Block, make Pig an unexpectedly touching experience. Block and Sarnoski may frustrate somewhat with a few of the screenplay choices they make, but the latter captures it all with a directorial style that really hits home. They make you care for the pig, sure, but they make you care about Cage’s Rob, and that’s the bigger accomplishment. I’m being vague about so much because it’s best left discovered, but this is truly a full cinematic meal. No spoilers, but kudos to them for a perfect choice in regards to a song that closes things out. You’ll know it when you hear it (the song) and see it (Pig).
Pig may sound ridiculous, but it’s genuinely moving, especially as it reaches its simple conclusion. This is among the best films of 2012 so far, and I never would have guessed that going in. Yes, it’s that good. The movie is a truly special experience and one of the biggest surprises of the year. Be sure to check it out, as it’s the sort of thing that’s going to stay with you long after the credits roll…