Pig (2021)

Michael Sarnoski

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, Nina Belforte, Gretchen Corbett, Julia Bray. Darius Pierce, Brandy

Spending his days hunting truffles, Rob (Nicolas Cage) lives in the wilderness with his beloved foraging pig. This simple life is disrupted when she's kidnapped, and before one can say "Pig In The City", Rob returns to his past in Portland to find her. While the set-up brings to mind John Wick, don't expect a violent revenge flick as writer/director Michael Sarnoski has crafted something sombre and affecting about how grief can change a person.

Earlier this year in Willy's Wonderland, Cage portrayed a drifter that inhabited the silent badass trope. Months later, the actor takes a different tactic with a character as unlikely to start a conversation, as Rob is a broken person in deep grief. Cage gives an exemplary performance, capturing how this pet pig was the only solace for a man who closed himself off from the outside world. His expressive eyes and facial expressions say so much when the character's words won't do, such as when he revisits his old home. The sadness is expressed so vividly as he takes in how much things have changed, and they can never return to what he once knew.

Not a man to react violently, Rob is more willing to take the beatings and become bloodied, so long as he gets closer to his beloved animal. He's more willing to use his words to cut deep than a knife, as shown in a stand-out scene set in a restaurant. That doesn't mean he won't get frustrated, as the mounting situation causes Rob's anger to simmer beneath the surface, so it becomes earned when the Cage rage is unleashed.

Aiding Rob's journey is Amir, a young man working tirelessly on his image while trying to make a name for himself. Wearing stylish suits and blaring classical music from his flash car, Amir works so hard on his image to model himself after his father. Yet his efforts cannot distract from the inner pain he feels, and Alex Wolff exceptionally captures that.

On a level, this film works as a meta-narrative for Cage's career, as Rob's told his name no longer carries value and responds by repeatedly proving his talents haven't diminished. A key scene has him offer advice to a fellow chef that putting on a façade for people who don't care about them isn't real, not to customers or critics, because it isn't their real self being put across. It's a conversation which feels so personal that one could see the Adaptation star giving it to a younger actor.

For his feature debut, Sarnoski has crafted such an assured work about loss and returning to the life once left behind. It's a wonderful companion piece to Mandy, although instead of engaging in a chainsaw fight, the proceedings have more in common with Ratatouille. This is another phenomenal showcase for Cage, who managed to go whole hog for his performance.

Pig is available in US cinemas from 16th July, and in UK cinemas 20th August.