Movie franchises that extend beyond a couple of sequels often struggle to maintain their quality. A prime example is the Saw franchise, which, over the years, saw its storyline become convoluted and its characters entangled in a complex web of horror. However, with 2021’s Spiral marking a notable departure from the Tobin Bell era, Saw X brings this iconic character back in a way that could easily have resulted in a cheap cash grab. Surprisingly, Saw X emerges as the most personal and bloodiest installment in the franchise to date, making it a standout sequel that proves there’s still plenty of life left in the Saw saga.
A Fresh Narrative Perspective
The premise of Saw X may initially seem familiar to fans of the franchise, with John Kramer testing the will and survival abilities of individuals tied to his past, guided by Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith). However, it would be a disservice to equate Saw X with its predecessors. The film takes us back to a pivotal moment between the original Saw and Saw II when John Kramer is deceived while seeking a cure for his cancer. Learning of the betrayal by Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund) and her team, John, along with Amanda, devises a new series of games and traps to teach them a life-altering lesson.
Thanks to this fresh narrative direction, Saw X transforms the story and John Kramer’s arc into integral components of the film. Director Kevin Greutert, returning to the franchise after previously helming Saw VI and Saw 3D, lets the audience wait patiently for the typical Saw story to unfold. The film’s longest runtime devotes nearly the first 30 minutes to portraying John Kramer’s battle with cancer and his journey to recovery. The absence of immediate violence or Jigsaw’s typical motivation discussions allows viewers to connect with John on a deeper level and wholeheartedly support the vengeful games that follow. Tobin Bell’s portrayal of John reaches new heights in this film, delivering his best performance in the franchise.
By focusing on character development and narrative, Saw X sets itself apart from its predecessors. While it satisfies the franchise’s signature blood and gore cravings, it also showcases creativity in the traps and violence. Through John and Amanda’s torment of Cecilia and her team, the supporting cast of Saw X shines. Shawnee Smith’s portrayal of Amanda’s connection to Gabriela (Renata Vaca) adds depth to her character, while Synnøve Macody Lund masterfully paints Cecilia as a despicable villain.
Flawed but Thrilling
Saw X isn’t without flaws, particularly when it attempts to make Jigsaw’s motive resonate with viewers, especially in the context of the paths John Kramer and Amanda follow. The film’s twist ending could also have been more effectively executed, as some revelations are somewhat telegraphed. Thankfully, Kevin Greutert’s experience as an editor ensures a well-paced movie that keeps the tension consistently high.
A Return to Form
After years of underwhelming sequels, Saw X marks a triumphant return to the franchise’s roots, embracing the gritty and grounded storytelling of the original while reveling in violent traps and gore. Just as John Kramer seeks to give people a fresh perspective on life and atone for past mistakes, Saw X has the potential to rejuvenate the franchise, avoiding the pitfalls that previous movies encountered. It might not quite reach the heights of the original in terms of inventiveness. Still, it leaves a lasting impression on the Saw franchise, offering fans a chance to reconnect with a series they may have abandoned due to declining quality. Saw X brings Jigsaw back in a way that arguably surpasses his previous iterations. It’s a thrilling, bloody delight that’s sure to excite fans old and new.
The Final Verdict
Saw X is a testament to the enduring appeal of the Saw franchise, showcasing a refreshing narrative approach and rekindling the essence of the original while providing the gore and traps fans crave. The return of Tobin Bell as John Kramer, coupled with a focus on character development, makes this entry the most personal and bloodiest yet. While it has minor flaws, Saw X is a step in the right direction for the franchise, reigniting interest and breathing new life into a legendary series.
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