Search for Swine, by Bob Connally

17 Jul

When the basic premise of a film is Nicolas Cage plays a man in search of his lost pig, it’s highly probable that one’s first thought will be, “Oh, man, get ready for Full Cage.” Some people will be excited by that, others won’t. But from the very start, Michael Sarnoski’s excellent debut feature reveals itself to be something else entirely and Cage reminds those who may have forgotten just how great he can really be without going “Full Cage.” Pig, it turns out, is something very special.

Robin (Cage) lives in a cabin in the woods, earning a living by finding truffles to sell to a young restaurant supplier, Amir (Alex Wolff, Hereditary). Robin’s only companion is his prize truffle pig, who is just as much his pet and friend as he is his business partner. Sadly though, Robin is attacked and knocked unconscious in his home one evening as his pig is kidnapped. Upon waking up, Robin’s singular mission is to find his pig and bring her home. Knowing he needs Robin’s pig back as well for the success of his business, Amir reluctantly agrees to help Robin in his search.

Written and directed by Sarnoski, Pig is a film that gradually doles out key information to the audience at just the right times and doesn’t bog itself down with anything unnecessary, making for a perfectly paced and emotionally satisfying 92 minutes. This is such a simple thing but it seems to be such a rarity in filmmaking anymore. While Sarnoski has directed a few shorts and a handful of TV episodes, one would never guess this is his first feature film, based on its craft and the clear confidence that it’s made with. Exciting new filmmakers with singular voices are desperately needed now and based on this, I don’t see Sarnoski going off to be a cog in the machine of a comic book cinematic universe. I think we have true Michael Sarnoski movies to look forward to for years to come and that’s a wonderful thought. A key to his success here too is that Sarnoski doesn’t overly stylize this story. It’s a beautifully shot film but it’s also subdued so as not to overshadow its story or the two outstanding performances at its center.

In the supporting role, Wolff is outstanding and it’s really his Amir who has the big character arc. He brings this expertly written character to life by subtly showing us what Amir is going through in such a believable way. While there are certainly emotional outbursts, he never goes overboard. There’s an admirable restraint that never feels like we’re seeing an actor explode for the sake of it.

The draw here of course though is Cage as the mysterious, wild-haired protagonist. For those who would watch this film simply hoping to laugh as Cage bounces off the walls, you’re not going to find that here. Certainly, there are more than enough movies available to stream that can scratch that itch if that’s what you’re after. What’s so wonderful to watch about this performance is that Cage’s intensity is most definitely present, but it’s controlled and focused in a way that some forget he has the capacity for. If Mandy was the perfect way to harness “Full Cage,” Pig is the perfect illustration of how to internalize it. Nicolas Cage may have become a joke to many over the past couple of decades and one could certainly argue that he has brought that on himself with some of the career choices he has made, but it seems pretty apparent anymore that he could not possibly care less about how he is perceived. Nicolas Cage is an actor who has an undeniable passion for the work, not for the celebrity. Without giving too much away, that gives him an insight into Robin that few other movie star lead actors possess. I am not saying that most lead actors are simply there for the fame but few have really turned away from it the way Cage seemingly has. It would be hard to imagine this performance working as well as it does without understanding that state of mind.

Pig packs a surprisingly emotional punch that it more than earns thanks to its restraint and focus on its characters. While there have certainly been some very good films over the first half of this year (Luca, Censor, No Sudden Move being the most recent examples), nothing else rises to the level of Pig. It is currently playing in select theaters and I highly, highly recommend supporting it and seeing it on the big screen.

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