Classic Film Review: Saw (2004)

Saw, 2004

Directed by: James Wan

Starring: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, Tobin Bell, Leigh Whannell


The film which started the franchise that’s still going strong some 13 years later, Saw introduced us to Jigsaw, a psychotic killer (of sorts) who puts his victims in sadistic games, and should they win they survive. The victims of this particular game are Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) who both wake up to find themselves chained to a wall on opposite ends of the room. After Adam wakes up Lawrence plays the character of Mr. Exposition, with him explaining the predicament. While this is happening Lawrence’s family are being held hostage and the police are still tracking down the infamous Jigsaw killer.

My biggest grip against this film is it didn’t focus much on the game: they eluded to and showed clips of previous murders and the games they played, even having one woman who killed to survive, but the game between Adam and Lawrence was largely ignored in favour for a history on Jigsaw through the eyes of Lawrence. Lawrence knows from the start if he kills Adam he can walk away and be with his family but this doesn’t factor into any decision he makes throughout the film, except for when they pretend Adam’s dead for the camera, only that plan fails.

But having this detail in about the history of Jigsaw’s games, knowing it’s the first instalment, can be praised. Without it may have left viewers somewhat confused, if only they could have explained it more while having its characters enact the game they’ve been placed in. The acting in this film is pretty poor, but that is to be expected. With Lawrence being Mr. Exposition he comes across as pretty wooden, and doesn’t even seem afraid half of the time, despite the fact he’s trapped by a mysterious person and his family are being held captive with the threat of death looming: he just sits down all calm-like and has a chat with Adam. Leigh Whannell, who’d later appear in a few horror films (mainly the Insidious trilogy) also didn’t have a great showing here, looking very wooden in what was still the early part of his career.

However what was established here was Jigsaw’s brilliance, and the end scene (which I’d completely forgotten about and was, once again, surprised and amused) is brilliant.

A fun film, even if it was poorly acted and directed. More playing of the games and less obvious exposition could have benefited this film, but its secrets and twists were brilliant.


Plot: * * *

Acting: * *

Writing: * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * ½


Other films in the Saw series:


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