Close your eyes and imagine this. There is a new low budget movie coming out. This movie is about the kidnapping of a pet pig and the ensuing journey to rescue said pig. Now imagine that movie starring Nicolas Cage. In your mind you instantly picture this campy over the top revenge fest that we are so used to seeing Nicolas Cage in but that is not the case here. Not even close.
Writer/director Michael Sarnoski’s debut film is quiet. It’s subtle in its approach and touches on so many themes in life such as loss, grief, consumerism, and following one’s passion. While many viewers and critics have made the comparison of this film and John Wick, that viewpoint does a disservice to this film which takes everything about the revenge porn genre and subverts all of those expectations.
The film opens some beautiful shots of the Pacific Northwest as we follow Robin (Nicolas Cage in one of his greatest performances ever) as he forages for truffles. He is shoddy and slow, obviously living his life alone and at his own pace. Alongside him the entire time is his pet pig, who also helps him with his truffle hunting duties. We are shown that he is comfortable with this life. The seclusion away from society is all that he wants as his only interaction comes every Thursday when Amir (Alex Wolff) comes to collect his truffles.
Sarnoski and Cage do a wonderful job of just making us… feel. We feel the loneliness and grief of Robin. We feel the pressure Amir feels to be successful in the truffle business after living in his dad’s shadow. We feel the importance of life. We also, during the inciting incident of the film, feel some of the best tension so far this year in film which is instantly changed from tension to complete anger.
A lot of this feeling we get comes from some amazing cinematography from Patrick Scola. The camera moves brilliantly switching from personal handheld shots to long stable shots that follow our characters. Food and the food industry as a whole is also a huge part of Pig and there are some scenes that look like they came straight out of Chef’s Table. I definitely don’t recommend going into this movie hungry.
Sarnoski also brilliantly takes a film in which you would expect to turn into this violent revenge flick and gives us a beautiful movie on grief. In a genre of film where a character in Robin’s shoes would dish out unspeakable violence to get back what he wants back, we see Robin receive violence time and time again to show the same thing. Sarnoski also doesn’t sugarcoat that life goes on with or without you.
There is a beautiful scene where Robin goes back to what was once his home 15 years earlier. Looking homeless and beaten, Robin sits side by side with the child that is now living there and has a beautiful conversation about a tree that once stood in the backyard. It’s a powerful moment a film that is about accepting loss and understanding that while things change around you, they aren’t always bad.
Another aspect that really stood out in the film is just how brilliant the score is. As the movie changes in tone, so does the music. It starts with this beautiful serene score that really underscores the sweeping shots of the forests but as the movie drives forward, the music picks up pace and has this noir-like mystery quality to it.
Overall Sarnoski knocks it out of the park with this debut. It’s personal and passionate while also getting an all time performance out of Nicolas Cage who I’m sure some people by now had given up on. The film will take turns you don’t expect but if you give it a chance, it will be one of the most well made and emotional journeys you will go on in a film this year.
Overall Score 4.5/5
The Shameless Plugs
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