Pig is a simple story. Man loses pig, man goes to great lengths to find pig again and the people who stole pig. The man in the story is a stoic, grizzled former chef named Rob (Nicolas Cage) who sports an unkempt beard and long, matted hair. He lives alone in the Oregon wilderness with his truffle pig, and spends his days alone searching for truffles in the forest and cooking for one. He sells the truffles weekly to a young man named Amir (Alex Wolff), a city boy who is the antithesis of Rob–he drives a flashy, expensive car and is clearly concerned with money and image. Amir works in Portland’s restaurant industry and is a middleman between the reclusive Rob and the high-end restaurants that use his truffles in their tasting menus. When Rob’s cabin is broken into and his pig is stolen, he goes on a mission to find her. His old truck doesn’t run well, so when Amir returns to his cabin, Rob hitches a ride with the young man and returns to Portland to try to find out who stole his pig.
During Rob’s journey back to his past, he encounters an underground fight club of restaurant workers and a chef at one of the city’s trendiest restaurants, who he hopes will be able to tell him something about his pig. He also visits a bakery, which used to be a restaurant he owned, and we learn something about why he became a recluse, because of his wife’s death and his dissatisfaction with the restaurant industry. There is a tenderness somewhere in Rob, buried under his hard-shell exterior, but he seems to be haunted by death, and not only the death of his wife, but the idea of death in general. At one point he delivers a long monologue about the “big one”, an earthquake in the pacific northwest that is 300 years overdue and that will flatten and kill everyone in the region, and so Rob’s only wish is to live out the rest of his days with his pig, a quiet and simple life. “We don’t get a lot of things to really care about,” Rob says at one point in the film, and it is clear that one of the things he cares about is his pig. But if he is going to get her back, he is going to have to trust and rely on Amir and others, and along his journey he’s forced to question his choice to shun society and leave behind the life he used to lead.
Pig is a slow-burning film, a simmering stew, that works due to a subtle and committed performance from Nicolas Cage. There is the usual intensity in his eyes, and at points you wonder if he is going to start taking matters into his own hands, enacting revenge upon the world that took his pig, but the film subverts those expectations. The film’s pacing can feel slow at times, but I think that’s partially due to Cage’s reputation for doing action-revenge movies. I found myself wishing that he would start threatening people and beating up the bad guys, but then Pig would be an entirely different film. It works well as a meditation on loss and connection, ambition and solitude, and Cage delivers one of his finest performances to help Pig become one of the most interesting films of the year.