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Saw (2004) November 7, 2005

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Aspiring Australian filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannel must be the great fans of David Fincher and his 1990s thrillers, at least judging by SAW, their 2004 feature film debut. The film has premiered at Sundance Film Festival only to become a sleeper hit few months later and spawn this year’s sequel.

The film begins with two men – Adam (played by Leigh Whannel) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (played by Cary Elwes) – waking up at the opposite ends of huge dirty utility room. Their foots are chained, there is dead body behind them and they can reach various objects and cryptic messages. Gordon don’t know how and why he got there, but he believes that both of them are captives of Jigsaw Killer – mysterious psychopath who forces his victims to do indescribable things to themselves or other people. Gordon is soon informed that the object of the “game” is to kill Adam, otherwise his wife and daughter will be killed. Gordon begins working with Adam in order to save both of them from the vicious killer. In the meantime, Jigsaw Killer is being pursued by David Tapp (played by Danny Glover), police detective convinced that Gordon is actually the killer.

SAW has simple but very effective concept – two men are put into isolated spot and spend the entire film trying to outwit the unknown killer and each other. Importance of those choices is suggested flashback scenes that feature very graphic violence, as well with some very unpleasant scenes of unknown killer capturing Gordon’s wife (played by Monica Potter) and child (played by Makenzie Vega). James Wan showed great ability to create suspense for most of the film. His achievement is even bigger considering film’s incredibly low budget – most of the audience probably won’t notice that scene occur in rather limited set of locations.

SAW, therefore, had all ingredients of a very good film or genre classic. However, just like so many films, it is denied of greatness in the last scenes, when some of its flaws become too apparent. The biggest mistake is revelation of the killer’s identity and another is great plot twist that doesn’t make any sense and exists solely for the sake of shocking the audience. In that moment SAW becomes just another collection of horror movie cliches. Even worse is Cary Elwes, whose over-the-top acting matches poor quality of his make-up. The rest of the cast is passable, including Whannel who fares well when compared with veterans like Glover or Shawnee Smith (who appears in one of the film’s more memorable scenes). Inevitable comparisons with SE7EN – the film that feature similar villain – or THE GAME aren’t going to be favourable to SAW. Wan and Whannel are talented filmmakers, but it will become more apparent when they start create something more original in the future.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

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