Saw is oh so many things, but known for its nuanced characters and storytelling is not one of them, however, this may be the exception and the start to a true rebirth of the franchise.
A few days back I started a series that would go on to become one of my most exhilarating, the Saw-Trospective, a look back at all the currently released Saw movies in anticipation for Saw X, and there was this part of me that kept saying, why are you spending all this time doing this, this is gonna end up being just another entry, same old same old.
I’ve never been so glad to be so wrong. This has quickly and surely become my favorite Saw movie with a genuine renewed hope of where these movies can go from here.
Saw X Review
Why do I like this movie so much? For starters, it’s genuinely great, not just by Saw standards, but in general as well. As a series, there are a lot of quiet moments and a much heavier focus on the characters, especially John Kramer himself as he’s portrayed as very vulnerable in this.
Despite it chronologically being set between the first two movies I recall thinking “How the hell does he get out of this?”, the movie genuinely made you care for a character that makes death traps because they focused on something that could have saved him, only to rip that hope away from him.
The movie also does a really damn fine job showcasing his philosophy, there’s one “game” that’s entirely fabricated and in the imagined one he concedes they would lose, despite all his protestations in wanting to see the human spirit endure and survive he ultimately sees people as destined to die to their own inactivity.
That stuff is really well handled and it especially makes the inclusion of Amanda feel really natural as a lot of stuff in this one especially builds to what amounts to her total nihilism in Saw III. Beyond that, Amanda also works really well here as the bourgeoning apprentice who shows reluctance when they need to test an addict, something she once was before her game.
Amanda, unlike John, doesn’t pretend to not be guided by her emotions, she just is and she speaks her mind as it comes to her, which leads to a lot of surprisingly big laughs from her deadpan.
As a Saw movie, this had some of if not the most creative traps I’ve seen in any of these movies, and not one of them felt impossible to win, it all came down to timing, which also plays into John being duped regarding a miracle elixir for his cancer and having only so much time left to live.
Each and every trap was appropriate for those who endured each and every one, and to my shock, there was more than one winner this time, which was nice, it felt like John was this agent of, as he says, reawakening, and he wasn’t just a serial killer with another name.
In my humble opinion, when writing a character like Kramer known for their complex philosophy but seemingly noble intentions, lean more toward them being an anti-villain, not strictly heroic, but not robbing banks either, in terms of a comic character analogy, the best way to write Jigsaw as a concept is closer to Black Adam or Magneto, someone who does horrible things, but with a noble goal in mind, rather than say like a straight up anti-hero like say Venom or Red Hood, who just do heroic things but they also kill.
In terms of characters, this entry introduces our first villainous foil to John, Carmilla Pederson who is so callous and manipulative that she’s almost the perfect counter to John, I’m so curious to see where they take this character in XI or whatever movie comes next.
It’s a small thing but for a Saw movie the editing is also really good, it feels stylized and complements the cinematography of the modern-era films perfectly.
However…that classic chaotic Saw editing comes back, and boy does it, and accompanied by this films rendition of Hello Zep in a reveal for the ages, and for what it’s worth, the editing has never worked better than when it’s not just the audience but also the characters piecing everything together at that same breakneck pace.
There’s also an after-credits scene (although they hint at it earlier) and if you’re a fan of this series like I am, you’re sure to squeal at that one.
The movie isn’t flawless, I wish it was a little longer, and I wish the game was a little bigger, but for a Saw movie?? That’s incredible to me.
This was directed by Kevin Greutert who previously did one of the series’ best entries, Saw VI, and then immediately one of its worst in Saw 3D, although that was more the fault of a rushed production and executive meddling, honestly, with full seriousness, hand the reigns over to Greutert, he absolutely gets these characters better than any other creative who’s worked on this series.
Far and away my favorite entry, and I wanna see where they go next, Saw X is an 8/10.
Rating: 4 out of 5
This review was written during the 2023 WGA (now resolved) and SAG-AFTRA (ongoing) strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series/movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.