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Pig is a Nicolas Cage movie like no other; tranquil, heart-wrenching and genuinely beautiful, allegorising grief with man’s unlikely best friend.
There’s three sides to Cage: the hilarious, unchained, near-operatic theatricality of Face/Off, Ghost Rider and The ‘not the bees’ Wicker Man; the hunky action man of Con Air and The Rock; and best of all, the Oscar-winning, one-of-a-kind thespian seen in Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona and Adaptation.
His crowd-pleasing talents have been memed so often, Cage has transcended his own acting status, seen as a figure of deep fascination and, annoyingly, snarky laughs and ‘oh must be a sh*t movie, then’ write-offs. He’s made some turkeys over the past two decades, but having glimpsed it in Mandy, Pig showcases raw, era-defining form for his career.
Robin (Cage) is a grizzled, truffle-hunting widower living out in the Oregon woods with his titular companion, meeting Amir (Alex Wolff), a yuppie one lick away from Tom Cruise in Rain Man, once a week to unload their culinary treasures. The porcine makes an immediate impression; unassuming in its little snorts, relishing the falling dust of bread like Amy Dunne in a sugar storm. I would die for that pig.
In an agonising instant, his rural sanctuary is brought down by intruders who beat him with a pole and steal his pig, her screams barrelling off the cabin and into the trees. It’s like a child being ripped away from her father.
You’re probably thinking John Wick with a pig, right? Michael Sarnorski’s debut has no Continental, no gold coins, no guns buried beneath concrete, no ‘You took the wrong f*cking pig’, no brutal tortures (although there is an underground fight cl- oops, my bad); all it has is a man following any trail he can, devoted to getting her back.
Not to say there isn’t levity; Robin once confirms, ‘I don’t f*ck my pig’ with deadpan wit. In a fine-dining restaurant, he rather uncouthly squelches a gourmet scallop, to the blank-faced awe of the server.
This contributes to Pig’s greatest asset: soul. Watching Patrick Scola’s dreamy cinematography drift through the sun-peeked trees, listening to the crackling of branches, the gentle rippling of water. Grapsas and Philip Klein’s folksy score, woven with up-tempo strumming and twinkly, soaring strings, brings peace and emotion in spades. Aesthetically and aurally, it’s a balm for a feeling I couldn’t – and still can’t – articulate.
For 92 minutes, Sarnorski has no qualms bringing the pace to a halt, letting you soak in the weight of a moment, whether it’s wistful silence of Adam Arkin’s commanding, albeit brief appearance.
Wolff makes for a fabulous presence, but it’s Cage’s show. There’s a crazed lining to Robin, letting bloody cuts soak his face and dry in without medical attention, that glint in the star’s eye and mere flickers of his rage.
But there’s also something profoundly human and restrained about his anguish. It’s a rich illustration of finding something honest in life, a true feeling, a reason to live beyond having life. There’s unflinching maturity in its poetry, and it’s Cage’s greatest performance since Lord of War, 15 years ago.
Delicate, but mesmerisingly powerful, Pig is one of the best films of the year.
Pig will open in UK and Irish cinemas from August 20. Watch it on altitude.film and Other Digital Platforms From August 23.
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