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Jigsaw

Year: 2017
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Michael Spierig/Peter Spierig
Producer: Mark Burg/Gregg Hoffman/Oren Koules
Writer: Josh Stolberg/Peter Goldfinger
Cast: Tobin Bell

If you know anything about or have enjoyed the written construction of the Saw films like I have, you should have guessed the twist. The big questions in the series like the one this film poses – how can Jigsaw still be around when John Kramer's (Tobin Bell) been dead for ten years – have been answered by other movies in the franchise in similar ways even though Kramer was dead by the end of the second movie.

It's all in the storytelling mechanics, and for that reason this is very much as enjoyable as any Saw movie. Something the series became good at (other than inventive torture porn) is clever writing, using the chronology to reveal what's going on at just the right time to throw you off the scent and make you wonder how it's all working.

It's 10 years after Kramer was autopsied and buried and the film opens as a criminal thug is being pursued by cops through the streets and alleyways. No nonsense cop Halloran corners him on a rooftop where he starts ranting about another game rigged up by a Jigsaw-style killer with five people trapped in one of his siganture tests.

We cut to the five victims where Jigsaw's now apparently working in a barn wired full of bloodthirsty tests – from wires in a floor ready to tighten up so hard they can slice off a leg to a grain silo that will drown its victims in dry corn.

Meanwhile, Halloran consults with the morgue forensic staff Logan and his young goth assistant Eleanor. As the investigation progresses and the bodies start to pile up, Halloran starts to suspect the young Eleanor might somehow know more than she lets on – he's discovered online that's she active on bulletin boards dedicated to Jigsaw's legacy – so he press gangs Logan into looking into her background to see what she knows.

As the number of participants in the series of farmhouse traps dwindles, Logan is racing to figure out what Eleanor knows, more than a little freaked out by her 'studio' – a warehouse where she's reconstructed some of Jigsaw's most ingenious traps as well as her admiration for the genius of his work.

But just when Halloran (and you) think Eleanor might be behind it all, you'll know it's a smokescreen gradually drifting in for the big final reveal (s). When the five victims are down to only two, and when Hunt and Logan find themsvles in a trap of their own involving the high intensity laser cutters Logan uses in the morgue pointed at their faces, it's time for the script by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg to start pulling one rug after another out from under you.

It all plays out the way each other film has – by a buildup of music and the shortening of cuts and scene transitions that increases the pressure, steeling you for the various reveals and twists.

Yes it's contrived and a little ridiculous, but that's a bit like complaining that a man in a Superman movie can fly – this is a fantasy world with its own rules and conventions, and both the writers and directors (Australia's Spierig brothers) know and respect what a Saw movie needs to the point where they know what rules they can break.

As a result Jigsaw has its own language of musicality and creative visual mood that sets it apart from the rest of the series even while belonging perfectly in the canon. Creatively, it's almost perfectly successful.

Unfortunately nobody else agreed, and the only thing this Saw film didn't have that the rest of the series did is the gigantic box office return. Maybe fans of the 13 year old original are all just too old to be into this kind of thing nowadays, returning only three times the $10m budget.

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