To Die For.
It’s all about the story, innit?
SAW dives into its second act in its first minute: Two men in a subterranean TRAINSPOTTING bathroom, chained by their ankles to steel pipes at opposite ends of the room. A dead man lies in a pool of blood on the floor; in his hands, a gun and microcassette player. The men find cassettes in their pockets instructing them on how to escape their plight. One of them has to kill the other…
Old-school indie film-making at its best, from director-writer James Wan and co-writer, Leigh Whannell. Though ever-gorier sequels (SAW II, III, IV, etc.) have turned the SAW franchise into generic gore-fests, the original SAW displays a depth to its cutting edges that raises it miles above the average bear-trap nipple-twister.
Through flashbacks, tape recordings, police investigations, we piece together the story that a psychopath named Jigsaw is forcing victims into impossible escape situations where, even if they survive, they will forever be scarred physically or psychologically. The last seconds of the movie reveal why Jigsaw’s motivation is to give people a new appreciation of life.
The two trapped men are Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon, and Leigh Whannell (the co-writer) as Adam. Lawrence figures out that the hacksaws supplied by Jigsaw are not to cut through their chains…
Amazing first-time direction and writing from Wan and Whannell, solid characters and primal screaming that rattles our ribcages, immerses us in every frustrating, impotent moment with the trapped characters, Elwes and Whannell pulling off some complicated emotions.
Ken Leung does a great job with his detective role, but Danny Glover sleepwalks through his role as Leung’s partner. As they trail the killer, they uncover other fiendishly ingenious death traps: a man who must step across broken glass to work out the combination of a safe that contains the antidote to a poison he has ingested; a man who must crawl through razor wire to escape a cage, before the timer on the door locks him in forever; and of course, Shawnee Smith in the infamous reverse-bear-trap jaw-breaker.
The beauty in the simplicity of the story and the complexity of the tortures.
Has anyone told Monica Potter yet that she can’t act? She plays the doctor’s wife – unconvincingly. Luckily, the Story comes to the rescue, making up for the less-than-exemplary performances from Potter and Glover.
Pay very close attention for there are twists aplenty, the filmmakers intending a double-meaning with their title, as in: Doubt what you “saw,” not just the bladed tool to make people toss their plastic popcorn, which is exactly what may happen in the shocking, brutal climax – when Lawrence decides the only way to save his wife who can’t act… is to saw…
If that bone-shattering scene doesn’t wake up Danny Glover, nothing will.