Nicolas Cage is something of an enigma. I don’t think that it is either surprising or a revelation to say that, but the man is one of the only true movie stars we currently have. He is known for his near-constant output as an actor, and for being willing to appear in just about anything. This volume of work is not always great (though it’s never exactly boring), but the one thing it accomplishes is that as a result we sometimes forget that he’s a really great actor.
In Pig, his latest film, he reminds us. Before I launch into this review, I should say this: Pig is one of my favourite movies of the year so far, and I firmly believe that you should see it as cold as possible.
Pig, at first glance, appears to be a revenge story. Cage plays Rob, a solitary man who lives in the Oregon woods and, with his prized pig, makes a living hunting for truffles. One day men show up, knock him unconscious, and steal the pig. When he wakes up, he returns to society to retrieve his pig. It turns out that he was actually a big deal in a specific underground society and still commands reverence from nearly everyone he encounters.
Yes, this story sounds a lot like John Wick, but where John Wick was an action-packed thrill ride about a retired assassin, Pig is a quiet existential treatise on grief and finding meaning about a retired chef. It’s not a story of revenge; it’s about holding on to what we hold dear.
I don’t want to say any more about the story because I firmly believe you should see this movie, and see it as blindly as possible. It is not the movie you are expecting, but it’s one of the most effective and affecting films I have seen all year.
At the centre of this is, of course, Cage. We know him as a boisterous and animated performer, but he is actually at his best when he is restrained, and this is my favourite performance of his in years. Rob is a man broken by loss, and that comes through in every moment of Cage’s performance, and as Rob’s arc takes him from a place of near-complete isolation to the beginnings of connection, the subtle changes in his body language and tone are pitch-perfect.
Rob is, we learn, not only greatly revered for his skill but for his way of being. He remembers every meal he ever cooked, and every person he ever served, and every person who ever worked for him. In one of the films more memorable scenes, he confronts a chef who once worked for him and cuts to the very core of the man with just a few words, reminding him (and us) that we only get a few things to really care about. If there are awards to be won here, that will be the clip they play.
Cage isn’t alone, though. Alex Wolff (who you will remember from the recent Jumanji movies and Hereditary) is here as Rob’s sole contact to the world. Wolff should already be on your radar as a promising young performer, but this film should cement his place on that list if he wasn’t already. Adam Arkin is similarly great as –for lack of a better title- the big bad of the story, and the casual malice he brings to the role is chilling.
Pig is a film about loss. About broken people and where they find meaning, it’s a film about grief and how we process it and about how connection is the most important thing for moving forward with our lives. Anchored by an excellent Nicolas Cage in his best performance in years, Pig is one of the best films of 2021 so far.
Pig opens in the following Canadian cities this Friday, July 16th. An on-demand release will follow.
- Vancouver, Rio Theatre
- Edmonton, Metro Cinema
- Waterloo, Princess Twin
- Hamilton, Playhouse Cinema
- Ottawa, Mayfair Theatre
- Saskatoon, Roxy Theatre
- Regina, Rainbow Golden Mile
- Montréal, Cinema Du Parc
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