Reviews by Title:  0-9 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Reviews by Year:  2024 | 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011
Reviews by Rating:  0 star | 0.5 star | 1 star | 1.5 star | 2 star | 2.5 star | 3 star | 3.5 star | 4 star | 4.5 star | 5 star
2004 - R - 100 Mins.
Director: James Wan
Producer: Mark Burg, Oren Koules, Greg Hoffman
Written By: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Monica Potter
Review by: John Ulmer
Official Site:

Sorry, but she can't come to the phone right now...
Two men wake up in a filthy bathroom. They don’t know how they got there. They try to move, but their ankles are chained to metal pipes. A third man lies dead in the middle of the room, a handgun still clenched in his pale left hand. In his right hand is a tape recorder.

The two men check their pockets. They each have a tape, their names – Adam and Dr. Gordon – scribbled on the outside. They grab the tape recorder and play their messages. A muffled voice tells them the rules of the game: They have mere hours to find a way out of the room by unscrambling a sequence of clues. If they run out of time, they’ll look like the third man lying near them. If they solve the clues, they go free.

This is the setup for James Wan’s killer-thriller “Saw” – a movie that will frighten, shock, and disturb you.

The movie’s adverts compare it to David Fincher’s “Se7en” for a number of reasons, first and foremost because of the dark, grainy way it is fashioned. The thriller genre hasn't been the same since “Se7en,” and while it has spawned many pale imitations, “Saw” is the first movie to actually expand upon the unflinching brutality and bleak vision of that film. "Saw" does not hold back – I am not a squeamish viewer but some of the scenes in “Saw” had me wanting to look away from the screen. Some are so painful to watch, other audience members around me were whining, screaming, and practically crying during particularly horrifying sequences – something I haven’t seen happen in a theater since “The Passion of the Christ,” earlier this year.

I liked the plot – I liked how deliberate the movie was in building its scenes, how direct its opening was, drawing us into its world immediately. There is no build-up. It starts, and it never stops. There is not a single boring scene in this movie, and not a single moment where I felt as if they had run out of ideas.

The movie does have a number of flashbacks, used in some movies because there isn’t enough plot to fill the plot, but “Saw” never gave me that same cheated feeling. I always felt the flashbacks were a way of making the story even better, and more compelling.

The movie is a mix of many genres – it has elements of a thriller, but that plot unravels in a way that reminds you of a constrained buddy picture, while the twists and turns evoke some of the best of the recent complex thrillers like “Memento,” “The Usual Suspects” or “The Sixth Sense.” Adding to the mix, there’s also elements of a typical cop genre, as we see scenes in which a frustrated police force tries to solve the numerous murders.

What’s ironic is that unlike many other psychological thrillers, it is quite exploitative and does depict quite a bit of gore. But it’s not a boogeyman movie -- it relies on psychological suspense rather than cheap shock tactics, where someone jumps out of the shadows and kills the victim and we’re supposed to be scared.

Like other low-budget shockers, I’m almost positive that “Saw” will travel by word-of-mouth – it has already gained a slow but steady audience in the United Kingdom and this will will surely accelerate when it is released theatrically in the United States. It premiered at Sundance and garnered some great reviews and critical accolade -- inevitably the resulting hype is a bit strong for such a modest movie. If my assumptions are correct “Saw” will become a cult classic and its popularity will gradually increase, but it may be too much of a genre picture to reach a wide audience.

“Saw” is a very entertaining, edge-of-the-seat thriller. Occasionally the performances are uneven, but in summary the movie seems rather brilliant, and a sign of great things to come from director Wan.

SAW 2 sneak preview..... the anticipated sequel teaser trailers!

Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

Have a comment about this review? (11 comments now)

Search for reviews:

Copyright © 2003-2024   All rights reserved.