Michael Sarnoski’s Pig is a film that caught my attention as soon as I heard about it. Nic Cage’s casting was the selling point, it being the 56th film I’ve seen the star in (notably, I like the majority – or at least, I like Cage’s part in them), however, having finally seen the film I have to say even I’m surprised, in spite of my high levels of anticipation preceding the film’s release, at how well made this film is.
I feel like Nicolas Cage hasn’t really done a performance like this in a long time, maybe since my personal favourite performance of his in the film that won him an Oscar, Leaving Las Vegas. Don’t get me wrong, he has been in many brilliant films and given some of the best performances of all time in-between the two releases, however, there is something so distinctly sombre and melancholic about the way Cage acts in both films that is indicative of his intense acting talent. Gone is his usual zany heroism, swapped out for a Reichardtian style performance that sees him move slowly, frequently mumble rather than speak and act like something of a shadow on the screen, going against the reputation that his character so clearly has to some of the other characters.
Pig is a tricky film to really discuss in any detail as to spoil the plot of the film would be wrong – to ruin the plot points would lessen their impact and, considering that the film is so focused on a modern, modest method of storytelling, there really aren’t too many major points to spoil. Sarnoski and Vanessa Blocks’ screenplay is a subdued one, one that Cage fits into perfectly as he acts so against his typically experimental style here. HIs character, Rob, is given just enough back story and just enough space to breathe that he fills every shot, and the impacts that he has on the other characters is just as intense as the one that the film had on me. It’s tremendously moving, in spite of its odd plot, to the point that I was quite teary for the first time during a film for quite some time largely thanks to Sarnoski’s very subtle approach to what could so easily be another lower budget schlocky Nic Cage revenge film.
Patrick Scola’s cinematography (a cinematographer I had never heard of before seeing this film) is also great, and the gentle nature of the editing allows both actors and cinematographer alike just the right amount of time to really be felt as is necessary to sell the scenes. After seeing Nobody earlier this year, along with the consistent slew of other films leeching on the success of John Wick’s stripped back revenge action plot with a mysterious lead, Pig has to be commended for how brilliantly it takes the outline of such a revenge film and subverts it whilst never feeling like a parody – it’s just as serious, in fact much more so, as it carefully contemplates loss, family troubles and love in a surprisingly unique way. It seems that Nic Cage’s serious side is coming back, and he may be entering a new prime of his career as he has been consistently very strong lately. Let’s just hope that larger audiences are as willing to forgive him for some of the lesser films he has involved himself in and embrace the man who may be the best actor alive – he’s certainly the most daring and the most interesting – as he continues to involve himself in fantastic projects. Pig may be the best film of 2021 thus far.