Directed by Michael Sarnoski.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, Nina Belforte, Gretchen Corbett, Dalene Young, Darius Pierce, and Cassandra Violet.
A truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness must return to his past in Portland in search of his beloved foraging pig after she is kidnapped.
Nicolas Cage plays Robin Feld, a disheveled and unkempt reclusive truffle hunter that deeply cares for his truffle pig. You would be forgiven for assuming this is all a vehicle for everyone’s favorite unhinged scenery-chewing madman to do John Wick, but first-time narrative feature director Michael Sarnoski doesn’t just have more on his mind, rather the complete opposite. Writing the script alongside Vanessa Block, Pig is admittedly about a loner (mostly quiet and surprisingly calm and philosophical, only with occasional bursts of anger) who will go to the ends of the Earth’s for a majestic animal he considers to be a friend.
Rob’s only connection to society lies in Portland businessman Amir (Alex Wolff, giving his most complex and best performance since Hereditary, with these two leads seemingly bringing out more depth in one another) purchasing the truffles. Amir is also unlike any character Alex Wolff has played before, bursting onto the scene sharp-dressed and a privileged, spoiled mindset with a foul mouth. However, he does show a slight bit of worry that Rob will end up dead one day with no one noticing. The man is that far off the grid inside the Oregonian wilderness. There is also something fake about Amir’s personality, not in the sense that Alex Wolff is giving a phony performance, more that we don’t know enough about the person yet and that he could be presenting himself as something he’s not or doesn’t necessarily want to be.
Nevertheless, they have an arrangement and only make contact as much as they need to, which is always only physically in person, considering Rob refuses to use a phone. The scenery is exquisite, and the woodland ambiance fits the isolated lifestyle, as we observe a loving duo journey around the forest uncovering rare and highly sought-after fresh truffles. When the day is done, there are small details to learn about Rob, such as once having a now gone partner named Lori (Cassandra Violet). One of his only materialistic positions is a cassette tape of sentimental value featuring this important woman singing for him.
During the middle of the night, some hooligans crash into the cabin knocking out Rob and kidnapping the pig. Naturally, this angers Rob, but again, not in a way where he’s grabbing stockpiled weapons to wage war on whoever would dare do such a thing. There are multiple moments where it feels as if violence could erupt yet never does, instead, going in the direction of empathy and kindness directed towards the wrongdoers. If anything, Pig is the anti-John Wick. Would I watch a movie where Nicolas Cage is gunning down criminals and shouting up a storm on a quest for revenge? Yes, because this is not a condemnation of those movies or violence, but an admission of fully being taken aback by what this narrative really says. Pig is undeniably one of the most absorbing movies of the year so far.
Without saying much, Rob is able to gather that the culprits are from inside Portland and most likely share connections to his previous life there as a renowned chef and loving partner. He’s also able to rope Amir into his mission to get the pig back as it’s mutually beneficial, which also allows the script to peel away more layers about his character seeking his father’s approval and wrestling with what sounds like a toxic upbringing. Their investigation takes them are down the rabbit hole of the Portland cooking scene, where Rob still seems to be a recognizable face worthy of respect. One particular scene sees him at a restaurant talking to a chef he used to employ, which brings about a conversation about what’s essential in life and the profound piece of wisdom that meaningful things come in the smallest quantities no matter who someone is. Both viewers and Amir become further emotionally invested in Rob’s plight.
Then Pig seals its true brilliance when one character poses a potent question regarding grief and loss. Nicolas Cage and Alex Wolff are easy standouts for some of the best performances of the year so far, the writing is profound, the direction is minimalistic and affecting with a focus on the inner workings of these characters, and the equally nuanced score elevates structures of suspense where it’s unclear where this is all going. Memory is another resonant theme here, and it’s safe to say anyone that watches Pig will never forget it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com