Audiences have become used to seen Nicolas Cage freak out on screen to the point where it’s practically become its own cliché. So when his latest film “Pig” was released, a movie about a truffle forager whose beloved pig is stolen, I’m sure many expected Cage to once again lose his mind trying to get revenge on those who wronged him. However, in one of the coolest examples of against-type casting and defying expectations, “Pig” packs more heart than chaos and urges compassion and tact over anger and aggression. Co-starring Alex Wolff and serving as the directorial debut for Michael Sarnowski, “Pig” might not be the movie many expect but its thematic focus and an effective dramatic turn from Cage make it one of the most fascinating and heartwarming pictures released so far in 2021.
“Pig’s” premise is actually quite simple. Nicolas Cage plays a former Portland, Oregon chef named Rob who has become disillusioned with society and lives in a secluded cabin with his truffle pig trading truffles and other forest ingredients for goods to survive. However, one night his prized pig is kidnapped and he teams with one of his clients, Alex Wolff as Amir, to hunt down the culprits. This could have easily been another relentless revenge quest taking full advantage of Cage’s unhinged acting style, but what we get instead is a film that goes out of its way to use fan expectations against them in the most perfect of ways. Cage’s Rob is clearly frustrated by his predicament and is willing to do whatever he feels necessary to get his prized pet back, but outside of the kidnapping itself where an enraged Cage is quickly dispatched by a pan to the face, Cage’s Rob is completely subdued…but it doesn’t always feel that way which is the brilliance of this film at its core and a testament to Cage as an actor.
“Pig” might seem simple on the surface, but it’s what lies beneath that makes it such a memorable dramatic thriller. It plays with your expectations perfectly especially with Cage as we spend the entire movie waiting for Rob to lose his cool and resort to relentless violence to get his way, yet he never really does. Many times in the film we see Rob given the chance to finally embrace the rage boiling beneath him but every single time he takes the more cool-headed route to finding his beloved pet. One spectacular scene sees Rob talking with a chef who looked up to him when he was just learning the culinary arts. The scene is quiet and stretched to the perfect length where you feel the tension in the moment, and you fully expect things to go south. Yet, Rob decides to take another route using understanding, compassion and genuine understanding to get what he wants without force. This cuts right to the core of the movie itself. This seemingly simple film about a man trying to find his pig is a message to a world that needs to hear it right now…anger, frustration, violence…these are not always the best answer. One can accomplish more with tact and understanding than they can with force. What better way to drive home this message than by placing a man most well known for his freak-outs at the center and letting Cage show that he is more than his rage. He can be a very good dramatic actor who cuts to the heart of the material. I’d really go so far as to call this brilliant casting and writing that uses subversion to hammer home an important message that never feels manipulative or cliché.
“Pig’s” one major flaw is more based on preference and expectations than anything else. Its pacing which can be a bit testing to those who might have come in expecting a few more Cage freak outs. It’s a very patient movie that allows for moments of personal reflection and human interaction, sometimes not even related to the main plot. These moments are much appreciated as they add some much-needed character depth to everyone involved and give the story time to breath, but they can feel frustratingly long even for a movie that runs only an hour and a half. With that said, “Pig” adds up to a well written, calmly directed and well-acted dramatic piece with some mild mainstream flair that drives home a theme and message that is undeniably relevant in an era of division and frustration among humanity right now. I have a hard time believing anyone would truly react the way Rob does if someone or something they loved was stripped from them and this movie challenges us all to examine how the way we react to situations can affect the outcome. Even if we don’t receive the desired result, the idea is how much of ourselves are we willing to compromise to get to the answers? Rob could have gone to prison, faced persecution if he took a more violent route. Instead he takes the opportunity to relate to people, feel for them and not compromise his ability to return to his simple life while also finding new respect for the peace of mind he found away from society. It’s a delightful story to behold.
“Pig” is not the movie I or many other might have expected but its one I think you need to see if you get the chance. Nicolas Cage provides a career-high dramatic turn that plays with our expectations perfectly in a film that urges us all to reexamine the role that aggression, rage and act-before-thinking mentalities play in how we respond to even the worst crimes against us in life. What do we get from responding violently to any situation except a bigger problem we have to deal with in the long run? It’s a daring question to ask especially in a time of social division and with an actor at its center well known for being the exact opposite kind of person on screen. Best of all this is a dramatic film with a relevant message that never feels like it’s driving its themes into the ground in hopes that you’ll listen. Its presenting what feels like a real person showing through examples of how kindness and understanding can often win out. It doesn’t always win, but it hardly ever completely loses either. “Pig” is a must see and in my opinion one of the most enjoyable surprises of 2021.