'Pig' Reminds Us to Treasure the Simple Things

A very bloody bearded man sits at a table
Nicolas Cage as ROB in PIG

The announcement of a new film starring Nicolas Cage always inspires anticipation from movie audiences. The inevitable jokes and knowing whispers come out about the actors' ability to go completely bananas at the drop of a hat. Whether you love the drunken underwear scene in Mandy or prefer the "not the bees" moment in  The Wicker Man, the actor has a reputation for outrageous over-the-top performances. Viewers only wanting the same from Cage in the new film, Pig, will be utterly disappointed. Pig, directed by Michael Sarnoski, is a meditative and surprising film that recalls his work in Leaving Las Vegas. Cage has always been willing to immerse himself in any role he chooses to take, and in the case of Pig, this results in a moving portrait of a man who has lost much but still manages to eke out an existence that gives him peace and an empathetic heart.

Rob (Nicolas Cage) lives an idyllic life in a rustic cabin outside Portland. He spends his day hunting for truffles with his one faithful friend, a truffle pig, and cooking tasty dishes. His only contact with the outside happens when his buyer, Amir (Alex Wolff; Hereditary) drops in to collect the latest supply. The pastoral scene comes to an abrupt halt when strangers break in and steal away the pig violently in the night. Rob sets off, accompanied by Amir as driver, to follow the trail and find his beloved pig. As the journey progresses, secrets long buried about Rob and what lead to his current situation slowly take shape, surprising Amir and viewers alike.

A bearded man sits next to his pig on a porch
Nicolas Cage as ROB in PIG
Let's get this on the table. Pig is not John Wick with pigs or even a revenge tale. Yes, Rob wants his pig back, but he's not coming with weapons and wrath. Rob carries himself with a humble and quiet demeanor, never demanding. Make no mistake, he has an arsenal of sorts at his disposal, and a blunt word from Rob engenders anger, tears, or confessions – sometimes all three. Cage possesses the emotional range to lend a particular weight to lend this role. Rob's demeanor is of the walking wounded, worn down by time and grief. To push the point home, each time Rob gets bruised and bloody, he never stops to wash. While his appearance lands as humorous for much of the movie, the image of Rob with open wounds on his bruised and bloody face, serves as a symbol for the hard knocks he has endured.

Alex Wolff as Amir serves as an audience surrogate. He accompanies Rob at first only to secure his market share. His unique role allows him to observe Rob closely, and as he watches all of the steps and choices Rob makes in his exhaustive search, his esteem for Rob grows along with us. Amir has his own story and a source of wounds, and watching arc proves equally rewarding.

Two men sit across from each other at a table
[L-R] Nicolas Cage as ROB; Alex Wolff as AMIR in PIG
The peaceful sweet existence at the beginning of the film beautifully sets up a contrast with the hunt through the streets of Portland. The chaos and dog-eat-dog philosophy that exists in the city seems cruel and soul-crushing after that brief intro. The streets seem heartless and bland. Dreams are crushed. Violence is entertainment. In truth, we want to see the return of the pig just as much, if only to return to a place of contentment. Rob's search takes him through the seedy underground world of chefs and restaurant workers, where being the best motivates people to commit cruel acts.

Pig is a total shocker of a film in all the best ways possible. In a time when there is much hurt and strife in the world, seeing this man's affection for his pig may just break your heart. While the mystery of Rob's full identity and story never fully uncover, that's not truly the point of Pig. Pig is the type of story that may leave you reaching for a favorite pet or loved one and wondering what kind of meal could provoke the type of reactions Rob receives in this film. This role allows Nicolas Cage to shine in unexpected ways. He gives a muted and meditative performance that will not be quickly forgotten.

Final score: 4.5 out of 5

Release date: In theaters on July 16, 2021