Written by Ewan Gleadow on 28th September 2021
A surreal odyssey and comeback for the ages, Nicolas Cage striking back at a heavy-hitting drama instead of his usual action shlock have been a phenomenal, well-deserved break. Pig is the culmination of hard work. Unnoticed, nose to the grindstone work that Cage puts into every performance year in and year out is finally rewarded with a satisfying project that has more credence and relevance than previous projects like Drive Angry or Willy’s Wonderland. Cage usually cracks open a tin of quality once every few years. Mandy was the most recent. He seems prepared for mainstream love once again, with Prisoners of the Ghostland and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent on the horizon.
It is make or break time for the Cage Rage that has become so popular, so ridiculed, yet so beloved. Pig manages to bring Cage back to his satisfying roots as an identifiably strong actor. Gone are his antics punching women dressed as bears (Wicker Man) and his direct-to-video stuttering (Running with the Devil, Kill Chain, Primal, Grand Isle and Jiu Jitsu from the last two years alone). Disrupting the idea that Cage is at his best when in mania-induced screams and scenery-chewing madness, Pig reigns in the odd little beast that has sprung out over the past ten years. Director Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut has some credible assets to it, but most of all are his important and incredible ability to hold firm on how wild Cage can get. Emotional, rather than energetic, is the key switch made here.
That energy is still adapted. It is the crucial element to making Pig a success. Sarnoski has refined that mania, though. He has Cage embody the greatest parts of his wild emotional state. Robin Feld (Cage) is a man with a simple plan. He wishes to have his pig returned to him. Such a novel and simple concept is a masquerade for something larger. A dream of companionship and the sacrifices that come with finding it is very much the core of Pig. It is not just a pig Feld wishes to find, but a friend. As soppy and cruel a story that may be, Sarnoski has chosen well in how he wishes to display this and the meaning behind it all. It is the pursuit of simplicity and the act of rebellion when told not to pursue innocence and happiness that Pig explores so naturally and so well.
But that is the natural ability Pig has. It has a unique desire and ability to reign in the manic state of Cage and turns it into something not just meritable, but accessible for those that may not know of his unique presence. That is the big task Pig gets to grips with, and we are all the better for it. Cage is controlled, and the dialogue, costume design and technical merits are effective in producing some delightful results. Easy to get into, hard to get out of. Pig is a perfectly contrite piece that sets out on an emotional journey. It slips into the mind with an effective realisation, but the lingering moments that should follow these deeply suited wounds of distance, struggle and emotive impact are sometimes left hanging. There is a realism to that, but not a fulfilling one.