Nicolas Cage is an icon, but like many actors who found great success in the 80s and 90s, a fair bit of his time these days appears to be spent starring in movies we don't necessarily see in theaters. That's not to say he's become a "direct-to-video" actor, and Cage continues to star in plenty of must-see projects (look no further than Pig, Mandy, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). The point is, he's someone who clearly likes to work, but the downside is that it feels like he's becoming somewhat underrated as a result. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent isn't necessarily a comeback for Cage - as the movie frequently reminds us, he never went away - but it does serve as a reminder that he's someone who we shouldn't overlook. If this leads to a Matthew McConaughey or Christian Slater-style resurgence, then count us in.
In debt and not landing the roles he wants, the movie follows the fictional Nick Cage (the way the movie blurs the line between reality and fantasy is nothing short of fascinating) as he's forced to accept a $1 million offer from an eccentric super fan to attend his birthday party. Cage soon bonds with his host, Javi Gutierrez, but learns there's more to him than meets the eye when the CIA inform the actor he's spending time with a notorious gangster. In a foreign country and tasked with a mission that feels like one of his movies come to life, Cage leaps into action, and the results are spectacular. A comedy, action movie, and character drama rolled into one, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is delightfully meta and serves all those genres perfectly, with the end result being one of the best movies of Cage's illustrious career.
Cage is excellent from start to finish, and if you were hoping for peak-Nic Cage, rest assured you'll find it here. Leaning fully into playing, well, himself, it's clear to see the actor is having fun and revelling in the opportunity to embrace his own quirky nature to deliver a character it's a delight to spend time with and explore. Tom Gormican (who also directs) and Kevin Etten's screenplay also gives Cage some strong emotional beats, while we had a great time seeing him kick ass again. A huge part of why this movie earns the score below is Cage's chemistry with co-star Pedro Pascal. We know from Narcos, Wonder Woman 1984, and The Mandalorian what an incredible talent the actor is, but this might just be one of his best performances yet (and we don't say that lightly). Utterly hilarious as this Nic Cage super fan, he's also a complex individual who the actor avoids making your stereotypical fanboy or crimelord. We'd go so far as to say he outshines Cage at times, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is just as much his movie.
Watching Cage and Pascal share the screen makes us wish they'd crossed paths sooner, because it's hard to think of a better double act than these two right now. Whether it's watching them high on acid planning out a blockbuster hit or seeing them enjoy the masterpiece that is Paddington 2, what we see from these two is perfect, and you'll quickly find yourself falling in love with their bizarre dynamic. Surrounding them is a strong supporting cast, including Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Sharon Morgan, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Neil Patrick Harris, and a likely star-making turn from Lily Sheen (the daughter of Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale).
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is damn near a masterpiece, and everything about it just€¦works. Only Gormican's second feature, he displays a real aptitude for filmmaking here, and the meta-commentary is so much better than in something like Scream. On multiple occasions, Cage and Javi sit down to discuss the movie they're making, with their comments reflecting what ultimately happens in this story (like the action-packed final act that's tacked on to an otherwise strong character drama). It's funny, but also comes together superbly, and is never too in your face or too clever for its own good. This is a smart story and one that's equal parts thought-provoking and side-splittingly hilarious. It would have been all too easy to head down the satire route, throwing Cage into all manner of scenarios that pay homage to some of his most iconic roles, but it's all the more enjoyable to spend time with this disillusioned take on the actor who gives the real Cage and opportunity to show us new sides of himself. When you throw in Pascal and the platform he's given to display his comedic chops, this movie is everything we hoped it would be and so much more. So, how about a sequel?
Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal are an absolute riot in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, an early film of the year candidate that spotlights the immense abilities of both actors. Just don't call it a comeback.