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Saw (2004)

Directed by James Wan Written by Leigh Whannell

   While I don’t intend to always do full length reviews for series of movies that are, of a particular length. I was rather fond of every film in this one, which is certainly rare and despite most people being able to agree with. Whether held together by the “silly” notion of flashbacks is irrelevant I believe. The fact is that the series is consistent with several great Actors as well as contraptions thrown into the mix; held together and entertaining the whole way through. However, as per usual, the first installment was by far the best.

Having met in Australia while attending film school, James Wan and Leigh Whannell decided to work with one another as a means of being the others missing puzzle piece. As Wan could direct what Whannell could write and act out. Calling Leigh with the idea for the script, who took nine months complete a first draft; needing it to be perfect if planning on going through with the low-budget feature. With help from their Agent/Executive Producer, Stacey Testro, deciding to auction it off in LA when having no luck locally. Almost immediately finding an interested party in Producer Gregg Hoffman whose eye caught onto the attached clip the two sent along with the script. Deciding to make an offer right away with his associates Mark Burg and Oren Koules; those behind Twisted Pictures. Giving the guarantee that they could start filming in 8 weeks with Wan as Director and Whannell as Actor.

However pre-production proved severely damaging as James had to head to Canada in order to sort out his work visa, returning with less than a week for final preparations. Having sold Cary Elwes to the project after meeting up and seeing the immense detail put as James had sketches of the different posters, contraptions and costume designs. As well as how open to interpretation he seemed for the project going in because of the learning experience. Knowing fully the limited time allotted. They shot in 18 days after discovering a warehouse on Lacey street in which they were able to build each set necessary, the biggest challenge coming with constructing the bathroom. Besides being the most used set, its limited space acquired the creativity in obtaining more than just the same recycled shots. Most shots captured within the first couple takes, unable to have numerous ones to choose from if wanting to keep schedule. The amount of limitations against them from the very beginning alone, make the final project that much more to be appreciated for. Wan‘s set back lasted for 15 days when held in Ottawa by the Homeland Security. Because clearly, it was a slow month. Meaning four days of prep and barely there rehearsals with having to eventually shoot additional footage after wrapping up; meaning little to no sleep in the process. Which was ensured when they put the editing equipment in the guys room they were staying in. And while you wouldn’t be able to tell, during the nine days shot in the bathroom, there were fifteen people behind the camera at all times.

Cary and Leigh were able to work so well against the other and how they end up switching roles initially played were efficiently exhibited. The emotion felt from both was heart wrenching in those last moments as one is left to make a choice, unable to keep in the dark any longer. The few comedic lines thrown into Leigh’s character fit right in as while no surprise of Elwes being a fantastic Actor, was able to bring a depth to his character that kicked in from the moment he sees the picture of his family tied up. Resurrecting Danny Glover in a role that he could surely be akin to. While seen consistently through the film, it wasn’t until he lost his partner that his character becomes magnetic. The outline of his apartment lined with photographs and way he would speak to his dead partner were tragic in that all along you’re hoping he’s able to avenge the situation and falls as yet another victim in the end.

Having awoken in the dark, left without a clue as to a location, Adam (Leigh Whannell) begins to question his whereabouts. Finding another voice among the dark belonging to Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Elwes). Whose able to locate a light switch which reveals a dead body in the middle of the room, holding a gun in one hand (far having served its purpose) and a tape recorder in the other as the two eventually obtain the device. Each hearing of their current predicament and further searching for the suggested clues hinted at surrounding them. Entangled, a series of flashbacks detailing anything the audience may need to know in slowly discovering the masked culprit behind the elaborate scheme. Witnessing the growing trouble in Dr. Gordon’s marriage between his wife Alison (Monica Potter) as daughter Diana (Makenzie Vega), bears their burden. The entire reason Lawrence knew of the Jigsaw killer being that he had at first been a suspect. Detectives Sing (Ken Leung) and David Tapp (Danny Glover) had interviewed him after his light-pen had been found at a murder site. The latter finding himself obsessed with the Doctor after his partner had passed in a standoff against the killer and left with a reminder of the incident left as a scar from ear to ear. Moving in across the way in order to monitor the Gordon’s, convinced there was something uncovered there. His stalker skills paying off in the end as he hears a gun go off in the form of Alison fighting off Zep (Michael Emerson). Whose appeared killer presence would be mistaken as simply yet another pawn in the real Jigsaw’s game. Having time limitations and given rules to follow or otherwise facing the consequences for everyone involved.

Even after time spent from seeing any of the films, it hasn’t lost the energy it creates with the opening sequence. The beginning of a whodunit of which gets more intriguing as the moments pass. These strangers choosing to reveal any facts about them as at any point, it could be either of them behind everything; as implied with Cary’s character. Once they begin the flashbacks, we’re immediately introduced to the style of Jigsaw’s approach and exactly how the current predicament is undoubtedly meant to follow. The beautifully edited murders entailed a multitude of editing processes that were created as a means of not having enough film and needing to creatively revisit the process. Certain shots actually being Leigh’s hands or body as in the full screen version your able to catch sight of an accidental slip-up.

Thus involving the many snapshot photos seen throughout which were actually the production stills (mostly posted in Adams darkroom). Every scene being purposeful as is every move made by these characters, leading them right where they’ve ended up. Seeing the elaborate set-up of how far he was willing to go in order to educate with these “life lessons.” Not concerning himself with getting caught because of being dealt his own death sentence, which we eventually find out about. To then bring the entire film together in the matter of one last recorded tape was a brilliant ending with the shot of Jigsaw slamming the door and stating “Game Over!“ The ultimate pairing of James Wan and Leigh Whannell being what pays off in the end. The two have immense talent and a clear love of film that they’re audience is able to reap the benefits of. Having no doubt that as some of the “new” faces behind the genre that we will continually receive such dedication as in their first installment.