Nicolas Cage is a thespian.
Nicolas Cage is a thespian. He doesn’t just ‘act’, he becomes the spiritual and physical embodiment of the character he is portraying on screen. Whether Cage is in an Oscar-winning role or playing an alien-Jiu-Jitsu master, his charismatic performances demand the full attention of the audience watching whatever insanity is unfolding on screen. So, believe me when I say, it’s shocking to report that Nicolas Cage gives one of his most subdued performances to date in a movie that tells the tale of a man on the path of revenge to get back his kidnapped truffle-hunting pig in the drama/thriller from Michael Sarnoski, Pig.
Director of photography Patrick Scola and director Sarnoski have captured the dark tone of Pig’s world incredibly well though sharp-lens focus and dimly light locations to give the film a gritty feel. Right from Pig’s opening moments in the Oregonian wilderness, the denseness of the woods and the seclusion of Rob (Cage) and his pig is told very well through the choice of shots rather than exposition based dialogue. The standout moments in the film include a single shot take capturing to volatile and tense scene involving the aforementioned kidnapping of Rob’s pig, and a brilliant back and forth discussion between Rob and the film’s antagonist later on - which not just showcases Sarnoski’s writing ability, but also his ability to capture pure tension and intensity through patient and purposeful direction.
Well, it’s Nicolas Cage looking for the dropkicks that kidnapped his pig. You’re either on board with this premise, or you’re not. In terms of pacing, Pig occasionally suffers from a few scenes and sections that feel a bit longer than they need to be, whether it’s prolonged conversations or still shots that don’t feel necessary.
However, Pig has a huge strength in it’s John Wick-esque world building. In similar style to how the story sets up a universe by launching it’s audience into without context or setup, Pig is set in a gritty underbelly where high-price crime runs high and Rob has quite a bit of history with the characters he calls upon along his journey of revenge.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Each character that is introduced in this underworld that Rob infiltrates feels unique and purposeful to the story. Along with that, each actor feels like the have honed into the feel of their respective characters very well, with special mention to Adam Arkin as Darius. Alex Wolff as Rob’s companion, Amir, also plays the role of rich kid douchebag very well.
Most people will come to this movie for Cage, and he delivers in classic Cage fashion. Don’t expect any Mandy-bathroom-scene style acting, because as stated earlier, this is a much more subdued and nuanced performance which suits the character of Rob - however, there are inklings of that Crazy Cage inside waiting to come out in the more emotionally intense scenes.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Aside from a few cuts and bruises for characters that get into physical altercations, most of Pig is focused on story and acting rather than visual spectacle (both real and digital). There is nothing worthy of noting aside from the great use of lighting and camerawork in the dingy areas of Portland to create the gritty vibe.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Again, much like the special effects, the score and sound design is completely serviceable. A minimalist score fits a minimalist style of filmmaking. The pig-kidnapping scene using a great effect of muted sound and a disgusting pig squeal that did make me cringe in my seat, however a movie that is mostly dialogue has the design to fit.
Pig may not be the craziest Nic Cage movie, but it’s been the most engaging film of his story-wise in a while, even with its mild pacing issues. The solid world building and aesthetic of a dark, gritty Portland makes Pig an atmospheric experience worth seeing.