Directed By Michael Sarnoski
Starring – Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin
The Plot – Living alone in the Oregon wilderness, a truffle hunter (Cage) returns to Portland to find the person who stole his beloved pig.
Rated R for adult language and some situations involving brutal violence
– Subverted expectations. With a cluttered abundance of revenge flicks over the previous decade, it seemed that “Pig” was heading in familiar territory. However, this is anything but a revenge narrative, and is instead an intimate dissection of a man who lost everything long before his four legged friend went absent. In this direction, it is Cage’s protagonist who becomes the primary focus, sifting through a series of various interactions and dynamics that vividly paint the picture of who he was before his move to the wilderness, and what his lasting impact has meant for those he left behind. As previously noted, there is violence in the movie, but it’s dispersed in ways that are impossible to foresee heading into the occasions, instead creating a false perception to the audience for how and where these elements will materialize throughout the narrative, that, like the ambiguous trailer, tells us absolutely nothing about the reality of the experience we are about to experience.
– Meticulous exposition. What I love about the backstory of this plot and its respective protagonist is the desire to cloak these tidbits of information in the balance of minimal dialogue and cryptic body language, creating a lived-in quality to the world and its characters that the movie wholeheartedly immerses us in. This not only forces audiences to pay attention to every pivotal interaction, but it also requires them to fill in the blanks with some questions that aren’t emphatically answered, all the while taking nothing away from our investment. Because of such, we can mentally articulate the who and the why of the situation, but it’s the how that is most intriguing, taking us on a literal ride of redemption for Cage’s Rob that forces him to confront matters that he initially regarded as better left in the past. In the end, we colorfully interpret everything effectively, but in ways that never felt spoon-fed or elementary for how they were presented, instead using interpretation to flesh out the reality of every situation that tells a much bigger story.
– Blanketed reality. Acting as a character of its own in “Pig”, is the invigorating sound design, which audibly details the elements of various environments at the movie’s forefront. When in the wilderness, Rob’s influence among the legions of birds chirping, or wind echoing its passage throughout the trees, instills a grander passage of weight or influence to his permanent surroundings, all the while equally entrancing us with the near crippling silence that trepidates before the inevitable materializes. In contrast to this is the story’s evolution to Portland, which diminishes the articulation of those elements I previously mentioned, in favor for a more grounded sound scheme with many voices, automobiles, and other man-made elements constantly breaking the serenity. It articulates everything that Rob holds dear to his heart in the confines of isolation, all the while condemning the elements that alienated him in the origins of his story, creating an enriching experience to the production that immerses us in the weathered shoes of its lead.
– Tranquil cinematography. Also reflecting that of the peaceful sound design is the lucid compositions and impeccable framing from Patrick Scola that never wastes a single frame of film to convey the bigger picture. Scola quite literally surrounds our characters at any time in the narrative with an environmental clarity that sheds its influence consistently without taking away from the interaction at the forefront. This creates a series of slowburn stillframe sequences that are every bit as beautifully hypnotic as they are artistically crafted, gifting us with no shortage of shots that could easily be framed as pictures in an art gallery, conveying some deeper meaning. In addition to this, the faded color correction plays all the more emphatically to the tonal consistency of the story, measuring an aspect of deep, personal feeling to the movie’s imagery that is entirely relevant of the feelings that its protagonist bottles throughout the narrative.
– Transformative performances. It isn’t shocking to see Cage lose himself in the appearances and personality of another bizarre character, but what is entirely rewarding to the experience is the subtlety in his deliveries that play all the more accordingly to the integrity of the character design. This affords Cage many powerful diatribes in dialogue, but ones that rarely ever require him to raise his voice to gain attention, speaking sternly in sincerity to the point that it washes over us and his opposition like waves of unrelenting honesty. In addition to Cage, I also thought that Nat Wolff gave one of his more memorably resonant performances as a business partner of Cage’s, who may or may not know more than he’s letting on. Wolff and Cage’s chemistry develops a rich bond as the film progresses, and with Cage’s subdued consistency allows Wolff the opportunity to flex through some of the more emotional heavy lifting that the scenes call upon. Finally, it was great to see Adam Arkin again, if only just for a few scenes, as this mysterious wealthy man tugging the strings in the distance. Arkin compliments scenes with Cage with an equally transfixing warmth of sorrow tugging just below the surface, all the while proving the level of depth working within the characters in the movie that are anything other than one-dimensional.
– Meaningful heft. Seeing as to how Sarnoski hasn’t ever directed a feature length film, and hasn’t directed a short one in nine years, it’s easy to understand the reason why he attacked “Pig” with no shortage of sentimental and personal meaning to what it fleshes out. Far from its topical plot about a pig kidnapping, this story also supplants valuable themes about rediscovery, pride about various career paths without putting up a farce or front, and also one about the love and longing of connection that is sometimes not even human in its importance. These are all orchestrated terrifically to the moral fabric of the movie’s material, all the while bringing along an evolution to its narrative that is every bit entrancing in its procedural efforts as it is rewarding in audience interpretation for what they can take away from the experience. It’s a very strong introductory effort for Michael, and one that is anything other than the “Strange” Nick Cage film that was previously advertised.
– Fluid pacing. Strangely enough, this was one of the more investing experiences in cinema for me in quite sometime, and the reason being is because it constantly kept me interested in the beats of the narrative, throughout many long distance emotional journey’s. When the movie begins, it’s the strangeness of the relationship between man and pig that surprisingly instills a warmth for connection that establishes sentimental meaning in what the latter means to the former. From there, the movie wastes very little time setting movements into motion, ratcheting up the tension around the ten minute mark of the movie where the conflict materializes, and Rob is left alone to pick up the pieces. The rest of the film was most rewarding to me, as it’s there in its procedural where we outline the person Rob was compared to who now stands before us, satisfyingly opening him up in ways that allows us to see him for the person he was rather than the person he now is, and playing into the element of self-discovery that could create enhanced meaning to the ages old sentiment “Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.
– Logical leaps. While most of the procedural efforts for the film felt grounded in reality for me, there were a couple in the middle of the next movement that I had to remotely suspend disbelief for. Without spoiling anything, I will say that there’s one conclusion that Cage’s character hits on during the middle of the film, which leads him to the ultimate baddie waiting in the wings, and it felt a bit too forced and undeserved for what little information he attained during the previous sequence. In this regard, there’s also too many easily dissected answers from Rob himself that required no semblance of urgency or plight to him fleshing out these pivotal details from the many questionable characters he comes across. They either let it go easily, or are the most honest people in the world, which creates noticeable leaps for my money when you’re patiently trying to follow the path that the movie’s general outline makes for you.
– Lagging inconsistency. Although not a problem that greatly diminished my final score, the faulty make-up designs of the film created a glaring problem of consistency that constantly took me out of the movie between transitions. Considering this is a movie that takes place over two days, it’s irresponsible to even consider that scarring would even take shape during such a minimal allowance of time, but that’s exactly what happens here, frequently throughout. One such instance shows Rob being beaten down to the point of various cuts on the right side of his face, but in the next morning, there’s only one there, and it’s so minimally resonant that it looks like four or five days has passed since its appearance. In addition to this, the cuts themselves change in placement between the second and third acts, most noticeably the one on Rob’s right cheek, begins directly under his eye, then teleports itself closer to his beard during the movie’s climax. For a movie with as many pleasantries in production as this one had, I feel like the make-up could’ve been better, especially considering we spend so much time interpreting Rob’s facial registries to make up for the subdued nature of his dialogue deliveries.
– Underwhelming ending. Even with “Pig” being an introspective character study, I can’t help but feel the ending needed a few more jolts of energy to get it across the finish line, and take this good film to being a great one. I thoroughly understand the resolution for the journey at hand, but one Earth-shattering turn of information delivered late in this film almost comes and goes with little to no ensuing consequence springing from its thickly resonating emphasis. Because of such, the long distance journey itself is satisfying from a personal perspective, but from an entertaining climax leaves entirely too much energy of momentum on the cutting room floor, creating an unshakeable anticlimactic resonance that could’ve used some additional measures in tying a few more story threads together from Sarnoski to create a much more emotionally satisfying tapestry. As it stands, we keep longing for a gut-punch that never physically materializes, leaving the last five minutes as the last drops of momentum in this once full glass.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-