MOVIE REVIEW – Pig is an intense, slow-moving, beautiful meditation on profound loss and coming to terms with it, with occasional moments of humour, pathos and violence.
Revenge dramas are usually triggered by a sudden sense of loss, which becomes the basis for a lonely character to take on almost the whole world. Whether it’s John Wick‘s astonishing quest for revenge that flares up after the loss of his beloved dog Daisy, or the Taken about the hard-edged Bryan Mills determined to save his daughter, revenge dramas tend to conform to a set of narratively defined expectations. But this is not the case with Michael Sarnoski’s Pig, which unfolds in an uncharacteristic revenge thriller, yet every aspect of it works perfectly while defying genre expectations. Pig is an intense, slow-moving, beautiful meditation on the true meaning of loss, full of humour, pathos and violence.
A lonely hermit and his pig
The Pig opens with the lush greenery of the Oregon woods, home to a lonely, long-bearded, stunningly unassuming-looking man named Rob (Nicholas Cage) whose only companion is a truffle-hunting pig. Rob spends his days in his isolated cottage, training his pig to gather valuable mushrooms, which he then sells to a laid-back yet determined young man named Amir (Alex Wolff). There are many visual references to Rob’s past, such as the way he carefully folds the dough for the rustic mushroom tart he makes for himself and his beloved pet, and loses himself in the heavenly smell of the fresh ingredients used. This domestic bliss is soon interrupted when Rob’s piglet is stolen in the middle of the night by a group of unseen figures, a common occurrence in the savagely bloodthirsty underworld of the culinary world. Emotionally shattered, Rob turns to Amir to take him to Portland to track down his precious companion.
What follows is a series of unpredictable events involving a secret passage through a restaurant, an underground fight club, a shocking discovery and a gripping conversation in an immensely snobbish Michelin-starred restaurant. Rob’s true identity is gradually revealed, and we soon learn that the name Robert Felt means a lot in the culinary industry, so much so that it inspires gratitude, awe and fear in everyone. It is worth noting that Pig is not your usual revenge thriller, as it lingers on moments of pathos, full of observations about existence that weigh heavily on the characters involved.
Shrouded in complete mystery
In a particularly compelling scene, when Amir serves Rob French toast and shallots for breakfast, Rob is absorbed in a monologue about the futility of existence on earth, which can be swept away in an instant by a natural disaster. The way people treat, control, oppress and often trick each other to get certain things in life seems cruel and somewhat pointless compared to what is really important. One of Pig’s greatest strengths is the way Sarnoski doles out revelations about key players. These revelations are never random; they always fit organically into the story. Interestingly, Rob is shrouded in complete mystery until the final scene, a masterful feat by both the director and Cage.
The formidable restaurant broker Darius, played with stern determination by Adam Arkin, emerges as a key obstacle between Rob and his pig, and one that can only be overcome by the power of food. The rich delicacy of working with the right flavours, the act of breaking bread together, and the gesture of preparing a meal for someone is a lost beauty in today’s culture, the value of which Pig highlights in a sombre and beautiful way.
Nicolas Cage’s masterpiece acting
Despite Pig being an emotional rollercoaster, it never feels overwhelming as it manages to stay grounded for the entire hour and a half. This is made possible by Cage’s incredible performance as Rob, who refuses medical treatment despite being thoroughly beaten and covered in blood everywhere, and speaks in a hushed whisper in every scene while his eyes glitter with deadly intensity. Wolff is also impressive as the wonderfully dynamic Amir, who forms a lovable friendship with a man who has suffered inconsolable loss. While not all questions are answered, such as why exactly Rob decided to shed his former life and retire as a hermit, or what happened to the woman whose tapes are still lying around his house, Pig is an emotionally satisfying experience that few films have been able to match recently.