"But with your survival, became your obsession. Obsession to stop those around you for making the wrong choices."
I had very low expectations for this fourth installment. It is one thing thinking of sequels that topped the original ... The Godfather Part II, Aliens, Terminator 2, Toy Story 2 ... to name the very few I can think of. Then, we have Saw IV. Could the fourth installment be any good? Especially considering the lead character is dead. Oh yeah, spoiler alert. Having watched Saw III in Reading Vue Cinema, this one was watched in Finchley Vue Cinema having recently moved to London. Poor Jo had to travel from Brighton and then from Stockwell up to Finchley so we could see the film there. That was a lot to ask but it was a good cinema and, ultimately, a good viewing. I think it is the best sequel since possibly the first film. Maybe, because Amanda - an actress who doesn't rate very highly on my actor-rating - was absent must have helped. Not to mention, the lead actor we followed - Rigg (Lyriq Bent) - was incredible. An actor who was likabale since Saw II - I must admit, knowing he was holding the film this time, did fill me with a little happiness. So, how did in fare ...
What I reckon ...
In a similar way to Saw III the running theme is 'training' and 'how to train' an accomplice. We have already seen Amanda fail at being an apprentice to Jigsaw, but - as we aree told by Strahm - there is another person who has helped out. How else could cancer-stricken Jigsaw and not-very-strong Amanda hoisted Kerry into the harness of her death (seen in Saw III and Saw IV). The 'see what I see' and 'feel what I feel' statements splashed all over the walls for Rigg to understand indicates that if Rigg 'wins' the task he will be an apprentice for Jigsaw but, if he loses - which he does - he may be more human and, thus, more keen to save others (opening unmarked doors) but, ultimately die in the process. His human attitude - his attempts to save everyone is his fatal flaw. Strangely enough, this shows Jigsaws twisted - even hypocritical perspective. It makes his outlook not so glorious - you think about how 'appreciating life' is true and that, clearly, these people don't - it is a shame to see that such a character like Rigg is not appreciating life because he works so hard at saving everyone elses. And dies for that.
This gets us into the whole Capital Punishment territory and, ultimately, the death penalty. Who has the right to judge? Jigsaw who 'despises murderers' but appreciates how, sometimes, it is neccessary to put people into situations that force them to kill themselves. The death penalty argument - amongst many factors - raises the question of judgement. Why would a murderer be killed themselves as a form of justice? If 'the government' kills this person, does that not make them murderers themselves - and thus live by the same rules? No - because the government represents the people. At the end of the day, one person flicks-the-switch and takes a human life when someone is killed by the death penalty - and that person is as human as the drug-dealer in an urban-city who judges the value and decides to take the life of a thieving drug-user. Or, in the context of the Saw franchise - is as human as John Kramer, a victim of the drug-users and selfish people of the world.
Enough of that. The film begins with the autopsy of Jigsaw. Akin to the brain surgery of Saw III , this is a normal procedure of any autopsy unit. But for us normal folk, it is gore. It also goes against the cliche - the killer we fear is definitely dead. His brain is removed - there is no chance that he will suddenly appear. We still see some incredible transitions from Bousman - in one case we see Rigg put on a top and, as he does, the scene changes. I feel special effects were used and it keeps the films consistent and in line with the previous installments from Bousman. Initially, if I recall correctly, Bousman was not going to direct this initially and decided to upon reading the script. It makes sense, because it revisits half the sequences and details from Saw III giving Bousman a clear advantage - he knows those sets and details inside-out, so he will know exactly what would work well and what wouldn't. Saw V does not deal with III and IV as clearly and so bringing on board David Hackl was not a bad idea - but at this point, considering the outcome of Saw IV, it was important to have Bousman back.
Something not so important was the reuse of Eric Matthews. As much as I liked the character and I liked his attitude - using him in Saw IV could of either been better or it could have been replaced - saving the opportunity for a future installment. Don't get me wrong - it fuelled Rigg's purpose and arc but the character of Matthews himself - this, in no way, continued his arc. It could of been Tapp or Sing for all we cared. Maybe Sing's body was never discovered - Tapp saw it (as we saw it in Saw) but the police never found his body - and, akin to Matthews, he was loked after. well, c'est la vie, clearly Sing and Matthews aren't coming back. They are well and truly dead.
The whole story feels more sinister and darker too - more on the line of Seven that Mark Burg wanted it to be. The victims Rigg comes across are rapists (cliche fat, balding, middle-aged bloke) and child-beaters (annoying older man with weak dominated wife) - making us side more with Jigsaws vision. Its not just drug-dealers and paid-for-hire photographers. I wouldn't be suprised if Leigh Whannell always felt that rapists, child molesters and beaters were a bit too far ... because of all the characters in Saw II none of them were the aforementioned criminals. merely drug-pushers, prostitutes and self-harming drug-users. Clearly Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston were prepared to go deeper and more dangerous in their themes.
More interesting though is the expansion of the Saw universe. If we want decent, intermixing narratives in the sequels, we need more characters and more of a world to explore. For one, how can we get further from the local homicide unit? Get the FBI. Enter Special Agent Strahm and Agent Perez. They know of a third accomplice and thinks they know who it is ... Rigg? Art Blank? But it obviously isn't Hoffman because he is part of the latest trap of Jigsaws... Strahm is not the focus of this film but is the focus of Saw V so I shall go into more depth in the next review. Suffice to say, these characters begin to look at different angles of the same killings and give us the opportunity to see sections anew - while also focussing on a different approach: Jill Tuck, Jigsaws engineering roots, Art Blank, the lawyer and his links to Jill Tuck. So many stories can get you a little lost - you see Hoffman and Matthews in their trap, Perez and Strahm on the case while finally you have Rigg's games. Then, to make it more complex, in each story we also have flashbacks - Matthews survival over six months, the crimes comitted by the child-beaters and Perez and Strahm visually understanding Jill Tuck's history with Jigsaw. I'll bet, at one point over twenty minutes, you see six different strands of story. Its a testement to Bousmans direction because it is clear and concise and you know what is going on ... most of the time.
The origins of Jigsaw is further explored - so using the allegory of a death-penalty-government in Jigsaw we see how he has cancer himself - the country has a deep-rooted disease that will eventually destroy itself, but the backstory of Cecil shows that it is others who force this death-penalty into existence. The way other peoples selfish reasons affect his life - and his wifes' life - through the loss of their baby shows, perhaps, the criminals existence needs to stop with the solution of the death penalty. But, by believing such a thing, maybe it is his incurable disease - his personal attitude (that he could have prevented the death of his child when, in reality it was a mistake) - that is part of the problem, not the solution. His disease being his attitude that people are not worth saving and that is shown more clearly in how he feels that Rigg's life is not worth saving. His hypocrisy is unmasked.
So we finish where we began, Hoffman standing over Jigsaw's corpse post-autopsy holding the cassette player in his hand listening to his last message. Hoffman is the true apprentice. Why? we find out in Saw V. Though we may understand Jigsaw moreso - this revelation raises more questions about Hoffman who believes in Jigsaw but has no clear motive ... or does he ...