White-knuckle ride has a devilish twist
October 05, 2004
James Wan’s feature film directorial debut, co-written by actor Leigh Whannell, is an unexpected treat: a white-knuckle, serial killer thriller with a cryptic plot that constantly delights and surprises.
Saw owes a debt to David Fincher’s Seven for its gritty visual style and twisted morality, but the film has a sense of the macabre all of its own, not to mention an audacious, jaw-dropping twist in the tale.
Dr Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and photographer Adam (Leigh Whannell) wake to find themselves chained to opposite sides of a subterranean bathroom, in the middle of which lies the bloody, decaying body of a man who has apparently shot himself.
Neither captive can recall how he came to be in the brightly-lit prison; the past few hours are a blur.
Searching their pockets, Adam and Lawrence find personalised envelopes containing dictaphone cassettes, a key and a bullet.
The two strangers soon learn that they are the latest victims of a deranged serial killer known as ‘Jigsaw’, and the unwitting participants in a fiendish game of life and death.
A heavily disguised voice on the dictaphone cassettes reveals that Lawrence must kill Adam before 6pm, otherwise his beautiful wife Alison (Monica Potter) and young daughter Diana (Makenzie Vega) will be slain.
The means of accomplishing this feat, Jigsaw continues, are concealed within the bathroom. The two men must follow the clues to reach their goal. “X marks the spot,” concludes their captor.
And so the game begins...
Meanwhile, only a few blocks away, Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover) and his partner Detective Steven Sing (Ken Leung) continue their pursuit of Jigsaw by following the trail of victims from other terrifying challenges.
Saw reveals the pieces of its ingenious puzzle one at a time, constantly confounding our expectations as we pit our wits against the screenwriters, trying to second guess their plans.
They devise some deliciously sick ways of killing the cast – the razor blade maze is a gut-wrenching highlight – and director Wan ensures the pace rarely slackens.
Cheap shocks are also in pleasantly short supply – the filmmakers opt for sustained suspense rather than continual jolts.
Elwes is a tad wooden, especially in the closing moments when his character goes into mental meltdown, and Glover’s tenacious cop is something of a caricature – but Whannell is impressive.
The plot holds together well, making a great deal more sense after the end credits roll and Jigsaw’s cunning plan is revealed in all its devilish glory.
Sleep tight now...