Pig (2021) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Where is his pig?

“Pig” is as simple as its very title suggests, but it somehow came to hold my attention for not only what it is about but also how it is about. Mainly driven by its solitary hero’s quiet but strong determination, this little existential arthouse thriller film gave me a number of humble but thoughtful moments to savor and reflect on, and, above all, it is firmly anchored by one of the best performances in its leading actor’s bumpy career full of ups and downs.

The movie consists of three acts, and the first act introduces us to Rob (Nicholas Cage), a shabby reclusive dude residing alone in the middle of a remote forest area of Oregon. His main source of income is those wild truffles to be dug from the underground of the forest, and, yes, he has a little foraging pig to accompany and assist him during his routine truffle hunt in the forest.

As phlegmatically observing him going through his simple daily life, the movie lets us gather how much Rob cares a lot about his pig. Besides little treats to be given to it during the truffle hunt, he cooks a fairly nice meal for his pig with care and attention, and, as he quietly watches it eating that freshly prepared meal, we come to sense that his pig is more than a very good living tool for his truffle hunt.

Rob’s only connection with the world outside is Amir (Alex Wolff), a cocky urban lad who comes to Rob’s forest cabin by his fancy yellow sports car. He has worked as a supplier of those expensive cooking ingredients such as truffle, and Rob has been one of his most important sources of income, though they are not particularly close to each other despite a little connection between Amir’s family and Rob revealed later in the story.

Anyway, not long after their latest meeting, something unexpected happens to Rob on one day. A couple of figures suddenly break into his cabin, and they steal his pig before knocking him down with a blunt instrument. When he manages to regain his consciousness some later time, these intruders are already gone with his pig, and, despite the injury on his head, he soon becomes quite determined to retrieve his pig.

Now this looks like a setup not so far from a number of recent action flicks ranging from “John Wick” (2014) to “Nobody” (2021), but the screenplay by director/writer Michael Sarnoski, which is based on the story written by him and Vanessa Block, does not hurry itself at all. When it seems that he needs some help and assistance, Rob calls Amir without hesitation, and Amir soon finds himself taking Rob to a nearby city despite his reluctance.

It looks like Rob’s pig was taken to some rich dude who has coveted it for a good reason, and Rob turns out to be capable of pulling some strings for more information and tips, though that requires some effort and strength from him at one point. When a certain underground figure declines to help him, Rob later shows how much he is determined to find his pig, and we accordingly get a tense and striking moment of suffering and endurance.

As the movie enters the second act, we get to know a bit more about Rob via Amir and several other characters who know him. While Rob is not someone like John Wick at all, we gradually come to gather that he was once at the top of his professional field before he walked away from his career and reputation for some personal reason. During his encounter with a certain dude who once worked under him many years ago, he quietly but sharply reminds that dude of how that dude’s life has lost what is really important in exchange of fame and success, and every word from his plain but deep wisdom strikes that dude hard while also making us reflect more on our own life. After all, many of us also often get lost in our life as blindly pursuing success and other superficial stuffs like that, don’t we?

So far, I have tried to be as vague as possible about Rob’s former profession. Although you will probably guess it right from the beginning of the first act of the movie, I will let you discover it for yourself and then observe how it is subtly developed into a crucial plot element in the third act, which mainly revolves around, this is not a spoiler at all, the figure who supposedly has Rob’s pig now. Firmly sticking to its calm and pensive mood as usual under Sarnoski’s confident direction, the movie delivers a modest but powerful dramatic moment when Rob fully demonstrates his particular set of skills.

Although he has often wasted his time on a bunch of bad movies during more than two decades, Nicholas Cage is still one of the most talented actors working in Hollywood, and the movie gives him a wonderful opportunity for reminding us of that undeniable fact. While he can go quite wild as shown from “Mandy” (2018) and “Color Out of Space” (2019), Cage can also dial down his usual intensity as shown from “Joe” (2013), and he is simply fantastic here as subtly and masterfully depicting his austere character’s humanity and resilience. In case of a few substantial performers around Cage, they duly occupy their small spots around him, and Alex Wolff is commendable in how he duly complements Cage without stealing the spotlight from him at all.

On the whole, “Pig”, which is incidentally Sarnoski’s first feature film, is an exceptional piece of work, and its modest but undeniably haunting qualities have grown me a lot after I watched it at last night. In my inconsequential opinion, this is one of the best films I saw during this year, and I assure you that you will be impressed by its simple but sublime aspects once you give it a chance.

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