“Pig” is not what you think it is. It is not a wacky gore film carried on the back of Nicholas Cage’s crazy, nor is it a member of the “John Wick” “Taken” genre of ultra-violent revenge fantasies. “Pig” is a solemn, sad, slow-paced film that carries a poignant message and takes you on an emotional journey you will think about long after seeing the movie.
This film is best described as a hero’s journey that never should have happened. Our protagonist begins his journey as a bitter man who knows all he needs to know and ends his journey with a less bitter outlook, but ultimately no better of a life and no knowledge earned. Rob (Nicholas Cage) lives a solitary life in the middle of the woods in Oregon, getting rations on a weekly basis from an obnoxious young restaurant supplier, Amir (Alex Wolff), in return for truffles that Rob’s pig finds. When Rob’s truffle pig is violently snatched in the middle of the night, Rob persuades Amir to join him in his quest to Portland to get his pig back.
This film follows a very simple linear structure; it grows its characters, without too thoroughly fleshing them out, and tells its story efficiently. The whole movie takes place over no longer than a week and scenes may progress slowly, but never in excess. The many scenes of quiet conversation use such effective dialogue. So much information is exchanged and established in so few words and in a way that the conversations constantly feel like they’re gaining momentum, or leading up to something, even when they hold long pauses. Everything said feels intentional and the few actors that grace this movie all perform their parts perfectly. “Pig” successfully walks the line of pacing between creating atmosphere and tension through long reticent scenes, and creating sluggish drudgery for the sake of being dubbed artful.
What this film values more than anything else is conveying its messages, the most important of which is to not live your life for other people. Cage’s character spends his journey teaching. As he desperately combs the bowels of society in search of his beloved pig, Rob does not fight, he does not coerce, and he does not kill. He speaks truth to power and reveals to the flawed people he encounters who they really are, through long conversation and empathetic words. While this phrase has been used to the point of being meaningless, this movie preaches what people need to hear right now. This could have been any other bitter cynical revenge thriller that ends with no one truly happy and so much pain caused by the ones who had pain inflicted upon them first. No revenge films end with the protagonist happy and satisfied, content that the death they caused made up for the crime committed against them in the first place. Bad people do not learn their lesson from being viciously beaten. “Pig” tells its audience a story of revenge that is won only through enlightenment and mutual respect.
The cinematography of this film is as simple as its plot but sets its atmosphere beautifully. Scenes are tonally established very subtly, with the ever present overcast sky providing a wide range of moods. The realism of the world this story takes place in is half of its power. When given the chance to be campy or overdramatic, “Pig” never gives in, keeping the same level of sincerity in conversations about the death of a loved one as in an underground fight club scene.
“Pig” will not leave you in cheerful spirits but it will not leave you dissatisfied either. Positivity is a spectrum and this movie’s lack of a distinctly happy ending should not take away from the wonderful messages it promotes and the rather heartwarming journey that Rob and Amir go on.