—About this Film
On the surface, SAW is a movie many will consider a horror film. Deeper though, deeper in its intent, SAW is something that many great horror films represent: exploration into self and the realization that we all have weaknesses that we need to work on. While other movies do this, the total horror of the extreme consequences we face is shown in the darkest of ways through the films in the Horror genre.
SAW explores areas addressed numerous times in other horror films. From Silence of the Lambs to Nightmare on Elm Street, we are faced with a villain who seems larger than life, and has an obvious psychotic thread that desires to see those around him suffer. But the direction of James Wan takes twists and turns that are unique and thought-provoking. Building on the intensity, much like the recent hit Open Water, Wan does a decent job of character development. I say decent because the terror happens so suddenly into the opening sequences of the movie that we end up having numerous characters that we would like to know more about: characters like detective Tapp, played by Danny Glover, and others, like the man Jigsaw himself.
SAW is a movie that explores various areas: from friendship to loyalty, from family to dedication, and from life to death. All shown in contrasts and in ways that drive the nail home. While the characters we see on the frames of the film are fictional, the situations they face hit all too close to home for many of the viewers.
The movie opens with John, played by Tobin Bell, waking from a bathtub. He quickly finds out that he is chained to the plumbing pipes in the room. In the center of the room is a man lying in a pool of blood from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and on the other side of the room is another individual, Dr. Gordon played by Cary Elwes. It doesn’t take long for the men to figure out what is going on. Using flashback sequences and storytelling techniques, Wan blends together quite nicely the story taking place, as well as the story of Jigsaw himself.
Jigsaw is a serial killer who has found unique ways of getting people either to kill others or to kill themselves, and he is never actually involved in the murder of anyone. He confronts each victim with life challenges. How important is their life and what are they willing to do to save their lives? This is a concept that forces us, as viewers, to ask ourselves the question of what would we do in those situations. While drastic, and somewhat over the top, the challenges that the victims face are only mirror images for the decisions we make in life.
“Life has its own hidden forces, which you can only discover by living.”
“What I really need is to come to terms with myself about what I am to do, not about what I am to know, except insomuch as knowledge must precede every act. It is a matter of understanding my destiny, of seeing what the Divinity actually wants me to do; what counts is to find a truth, which is true for me, to find that idea for which I will live and die.”
“At any innocent tea table we may easily hear a man say, --Life is not worth living.§ We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well.”
--G. K. CHESTERTON
“Remember my sorrow and how short life is.
Did you create men and women for nothing but this?
We'll see death soon enough. Everyone does.
And there's no back door out of hell.”
--Psalm 89:47-48 (Message Bible)
“Mere humans don't have what it takes;
when they die, their projects die with them”
--Psalm 146:4 (Message Bible)
The remainder of the story deals with Dr. Gordon and John trying to find ways to work together to not only save themselves but to save the lives of those that they love, who?they discover along the way?that Jigsaw has also taken into custody. The challenges of what one would do to save their loved ones comes into play here. How valuable are those that you come into contact with? What sacrifices would one be willing to make to save the life of a loved one? How far would one be willing to go at the expense of himself, herself, or another person to save the one they love? Are there alternatives that allow one to make decisions without someone else being affected? Can we go on knowing that we have regrets and may never have the chance to change our past actions? On and on, the viewer is forced to deal with these questions as the characters in the movie have to deal with them. What we find is that sometimes there seems to be little hope, and the reality of it is that the negative things that happen in life often have lifelong consequences.
“Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us.” -- Thomas L. Holdcroft
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” -- Winston Churchill
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
As the story develops, we also see that decisions have been made at the expense of others. We see, for example, Dr. Gordon as a man who loves his family, at least loves them to a degree. He doesn’t really recognize the things around him that matter the most, nor does he see how his actions affect those that he loves, the job he performs, or the patients he is to care for. We see are confronted with the fact that real love requires sacrifice, oftentimes sacrifice of the things that are important to the person. Dr. Gordon doesn’t see this until it is almost too late, and even then there is damage that will last for an eternity. We see and are confronted again with our own realities, how little have we paid for the sake of love?
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
-- Mother Teresa
“To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.” -- Bertrand Russell
The reality of it is, that the images we see are disturbing and graphic. They go to the extreme to help drive home the points of the extreme. While we may never go through the horror as portrayed in this movie, the images we see are still reflections of the very feelings we have. The consequences of the decisions we make are just as real, people get hurt and sometimes we make decisions that have lasting negative consequences. Ultimately, there is life and death to pay as well. The decisions we make not only effects those issues for ourselves but those that we love. SAW does a good job of driving this point home, although it is a method and style that many will not enjoy.
On the surface, I really appreciated the attempts made in this movie. The issues addressed are valid and justifiable. I don't have an issue with style or graphic nature of the movie, but truth be told, I just didn't enjoy seeing this movie. I am still troubled as to why. Technically, it was pretty good, the music, cinematography, acting and everything else was pretty good. But I still didn't enjoy the movie. I still find myself asking why-- I think that is a part of what the film tries to do, it is not really a movie that the director intended us to walk away from feeling good about. We are to be troubled by the decisions we make and the life we live. I was left wanting there to be hope though, because, I believe hope exists, even for those of us who have made mistakes. There seemed to be a short order of this in the movie though and that was a letdown.
“Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”
-- Will Rogers
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
-- Barbara Kingsolver
“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.”
--Pauline R. Kezer
In closing, I am reluctant to recommend SAW. It certainly is not for everyone, and it is not a movie you are going to leave the theater feeling good about. It is different in many regards from The Grudge. I can't fully explain that, I think part of it is the graphic nature of the movie. While The Grudge addresses the same issues, in a much scarier way, it leaves a lot up to the imagination, and we have fun along the way. That concept of fun is something left entirely out of SAW. It is for that reason that my recommendation is reluctant.
On a scale of 1 - 10, a reminder for the letters in the word that would have prevented it all, love, a rather disappointing 4