Saw (2004) Review: I Miss Theater
“Every piece has a puzzle.”
Synopsis: Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.
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Saw is one of those movies where I love the premise, but hate the execution. I have no problem with the body horror aspect of it; I don’t judge it for being torture porn; I just feel like the filmmakers took the lazy way out too many times.
Watching Saw means spending most of the movie questioning why the filmmakers made the choices they did, and running through the ways things could have been improved. My biggest complaint: why all the flashbacks and exposition? I can’t help but feel Saw would have been a stronger film if almost all (or even all) of it was just two people, in a room, with a dilemma. (Neither Cary Elwes nor Leigh Whannell could have managed that, I think, but that’s a separate problem.) As much as I liked seeing Jigsaw’s prior puzzles, the movie lost all its tension and build up every time it cut away from the trapped pair to do some backstory.
Aside from the number of times Saw did itself a disservice, it suffered from other problems. The acting was uneven, and both the lighting and camera work could have been stronger. One of the twists was also easy to guess very early on in the movie. (Credit where credit is due, though: the second twist is one you’re unlikely to see coming.) Though I liked the ending, when the movie was over, I mostly just felt disappointed. I couldn’t help but feel that Saw would have been better served as a two-man play. With a good writer and stronger cast, the psychological torture angle could have been ramped up much higher, and it could even have served as a commentary on human nature. But instead, the movie feels pointless.
There are a lot of entries to the Saw franchise; after the first movie, the filmmakers tried to focus on what they thought worked. Whether or not it did work is a matter of opinion. If you liked this one, give the others a try. If not… it’s safer to skip them.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: C
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