Nic Cage flexes his acting muscles alongside a truffle pig in the best movie of 2021 so far: Pig.
Nicolas Cage is a funny one. Due to his ridiculous spending habits, he needs to throw himself at any and every project that comes his way; the man bought castles in his heyday, for goodness sake. His recent output has been filled with absolute duds that, while sometimes entertainingly bad, feature an actor who simply doesn’t care about the subject matter. However, Cage is occasionally attached to a project with a director that knows how to utilise the actor’s unpredictable nature as a performer. This film may be the best example of that.
Pig disproves any notion that Nic Cage is a bad actor. Cage’s character is a woodsman who collects truffles with his piggy companion, his best friend. We know little about his character or his history for the first third of the film, but through the eventual theft of his truffle pig, we see more about him, and it is a beauty to behold. Cage has never been better, and that is not faint praise, with a recent excellent performance in 2018’s Mandy showing how he can really bring it when he wants. Cage delivers a brilliantly vulnerable performance that elevates the already engaging material, making every second of this wonderful film feel so resonant.
The plot squeezes every ounce of potential development from Cage’s character and the various supporting characters around him, like the consistently excellent Alex Wolff, who brings a level of charm and wit to the film as a perfect counterbalance to Cage’s gruff exterior. However, never once does Cage overshadow Wolff’s excellent performance, with both actors bringing something special to the project.
At its core, Pig is a devastating story of the inability to move on with one’s life and the repercussions that follow. The film’s key message is about letting go, and while that is not a new idea by any means, it comes off so raw here. The writing and the structure of the story assist the message greatly, as a mystery is built on Cage’s character and is subtly broken down as the minutes pass.
The film looks and sounds delightful. The cinematography is astoundingly filling and gives a real sense of tone that elicits the same feeling of an A24 film (The Lighthouse and Hereditary spring to mind as tonally similar projects). Without any words, the look and feel of the film tell us everything. The only flaw is the editing. Sometimes it is brilliant in its implications and intentions to act as a comedic or emotional juxtaposition between shots, other times, it is abrupt in the wrong kind of way. It certainly does not help the pacing in the first half; some scenes just end just as they’re getting good, others go on a little too long.
Pig is the best movie of 2021 so far. It sticks with you long after the first viewing, and despite its more intense implications and moments, it will leave the viewer wanting to rewatch it. Cage brings life to this film and, along with a strong script, great direction and fantastic camerawork, helps create something extraordinary.
Director Michael Sarnoski revealed the pig only had three days of training and bit Nicolas Cage multiple times. After a particularly nasty bite, Cage joked: “I’ve been set on fire, I’ve been in flipped cars but it’ll be sepsis from a pig bite that kills me.”