Director: Michael Sarnoski
Screenwriter: Michael Sarnoski
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin
In recent years, Nicolas Cage movies have come to be met with particular expectations. YouTube personalities like Chris Stuckmann have become infamous for their videos on some of the actor’s most over-the-top performances, and Cage has since become something of an internet meme. With this in mind, it would be difficult to take a glance at Michael Sarnoski’s Pig – a story of a man hunting down those who have stolen his foraging pig – and not expect something resembling a wild mix of John Wick and Charlotte’s Web. But this is not the case…
First-time screenwriter-director Michael Sarnoski sets up an effective bait-and-switch with this very expectation, the early moments of Pig hinting at Cage’s Robin annihilating everyone who might know the whereabouts of his prized possession before instead surprising us with a narrative squarely focused on themes of grief. By using the expectations associated with the career works of Nicolas Cage, Sarnoski manages to offer a story that slowly begins to seep into your mind, hooking you on something far deeper than surface-level thrills and typical Cage madness.
Nicolas Cage offers one of the finest performances of his long and established career as Robin, and he shares the screen with the equally as impressive Alex Wolff (Hereditary; Old), whose performance as confidant Amir is arguably the turn of the young actor’s career thus far. Together, they represent not only blooming companionship, but share in their grief, imbuing everything with a sense of deeper purpose as, together, they search for Robin’s lost pig.
Key to the leading duo’s exceptional performances is director Michael Sarnoski who, despite making his debut with this 2021 release, shows the patience of a filmmaker far more experienced, allowing for Pig to gently forage into the dark themes and deep characterisations that both Cage and Wolff were able to excel at portraying, taking the time needed for the weight of the story, the characterisations and the performances to truly hit home.
It is Sarnoski’s screenplay that is by far Pig’s most impressive asset however, the work on the page expertly shifting between tones and truly fleshing out a fantastical world for the narrative to take place in. Here, small and seemingly insignificant features of the first act become revelations later on, and Sarnoski proves himself an early-career master at finding the perfect spots in which to insert humour. There are moments where it feels like you’re being told too much, but for the most part Sarnoski manages to inform each of us without falling into all of the typical traps that early-career filmmakers so often do: namely being too explicit too often, or not offering any kind of explanation at all.
On paper, Pig may seem far from the kind of movie that it is, but that’s not to mean that it is worse by any means. Pig is possibly better than anything else it could have been, and certainly better than anyone could have expected. With this debut 2021 release, Michael Sarnoski proves himself to be a seriously talented filmmaker to watch, Pig being one of the most beautifully cathartic cinema experiences of the year.
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