Central to the power of this work is a performance from Cage that is simply stunning. Much is internalized here, with the performer relying instead upon subtle gestures and the inflection in his voice. He’s captivating even when disappearing in the scene around him and in the same way that Adam Sandler’s turn in Uncut Gems felt like a reappraisal of an oft underappreciated talent, so Pig feels like a moment to acknowledge Cage for the extraordinary actor he is. Let’s just say that this critic has found his performance to cheerleader during the coming awards season.
But this isn’t a one man show and there is space for the other actors to have stand out moments, with director Michael Sarnoski allowing tender moments to seep in throughout. Alex Wolff continues an impressive string of indie gems as his Amir is slowly stripped of the brash trappings that marks his arrival to the story, with tender work from Wolff as the narrative weaves towards its conclusion. Be it a singular scene or as a recurring presence every character is interesting here, and the world of Pig is a rich one.
Early on there is a shot of Rob and his pig walking through the forest and the beauty of this moment (with the light and mist between the trees) is the first indication that the audience is watching something profound. Narratively and thematically rich this is an extraordinary directorial debut for Sarnoski and it is also mightily impressive on a technical level. So many of the individual shots could be removed and placed on a wall as a work of art and this should earn Patrick Scola (Monsters and Men, Southside with You) well deserved plaudits. Alexis Graspsas and Philip Klein’s score is achingly beautiful, subtly enriching key moments. And Jayme Hansen’s costume design is exceptional, enhancing the detachment that both Cage’s Rob and Wolff’s Amir have to the world around them.
Pig is a masterpiece. Stunningly constructed, consistently playing against expectations, and enhanced by a career defining (or redefining) performance from Cage. It reminds audiences of the power that film has as a narrative form and is one I can’t wait to own on Blu Ray so I can wallow in this richly drawn world again and again.