Review: Saw 3 (2006)

D: Darren Lynn Bousman
S: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus MacFadyen, Bahar Soomekh

Saw 3 sees Jigsaw's endgame come to fruition.  Bedridden and near death due to the cancer that has ravaged his body, Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor with the intention of using her skills to keep him alive long enough to see what should be his final game come to fruition.  While many of the other movies in the series focused on a single character or set of characters, working through a single game to determine whether or not they are worthy of life, Saw 3 shows just how devious Jigsaw truly is, intertwining three "tests" into a single penultimate game.  True to form, the violence is amped up from either of the previous installments, and the blood and gore flies rather freely.

The different levels in this movie are what really separate it from the prior installments, and what makes this truly a more significant and impressive outing than Saw 2 (which was, I think, the worst so far).  It focuses more on the psychological terror that Jigsaw uses against his victims.  Certainly, the machinations are important, but it's always the "game" that drives the plot, not just the gruesome deaths.  Here, we see the history behind the first movie, the interactions that Amanda had with the victims from the first film.  However, we find out that she has broken Jigsaw's rules, and this is a key to the story - though she doesn't realize it, this set of tests is as much about her as it is the other participants.

The primary story, however, focuses on Jeff, a depressed father whose son was killed by a drunk driver.  He watched as the justice system did nothing, and felt impotent and helpless, while fantasizing about revenge, killing the drunk driver himself among other things.  He is given the opportunity to learn the power of forgiveness and redemption, and is presented with three people crucial in the events that led to his son's death: the bystander who did nothing to save him, the judge whose leniency let the driver off with little consequence, and ultimately the drunk driver himself.  Finally, he comes upon Jigsaw himself, and it is this moment that turns everyone's world around.

There's enough new in this installment that it doesn't suffer from the usual dilution that many movie series such as this sometimes do.  There's also enough insight into the mind of Jigsaw that it pushes things forward on multiple levels, not just the few moments of clarity that result in the prior movies.  There's really not a lot to say about this particular installment - it's another in a series of perhaps the most consistent, bloody, and intense movies that has ever been made.  It delivers on the promise of the prior films, and expands the "mythology" that binds all of the films together.  If you are a fan of the Saw series, I suppose you've probably already seen this, but if you're not, it would be highly recommended, particularly if you were turned off somewhat by the "slasher-film" feel of the second movie.