Combine the creative script and concepts of the first Saw and the excellent direction of the second Saw, and you have Saw III. How is it as a film? Spoiler ...
It is flipping amazing! Easily the best I've seen so far, and a hard bar to for the rest of the series to reach. It does a fantastic job of creative a surprising narrative and work in the traps themselves as a narrative feature as well. The violence is more brutal, yet still not torture porn levels of ... casualness.
Actually, let me take a moment here to actually talk about "torture porn." The terminology, as best as I can tell, was thrown around casually right about when Saw II came out. You see, there were many Saw imitators that started to crop up, films that focused on the violent aspects of these films. The Saw films (so far) have not been about the violence, not truly. The violence has always been present, as the crucible of choosing to live over letting yourself die is a very large theme of the series (so far). But the imitators did not have such a deft hand. They thought that the torture was the point, and preyed on viewers giving them just that, and nothing much else. The Hostel films, a Serbian Film, High Tension, the I Spit on Your Grave remake, and so many others are films that torture its protagonists and other characters as its goal.
Well what is the difference between what those films do and what Saw does? It is about weight. Torture porn treats torture and violence and gore as casual, much as actual pornography treats sex as casual. There is no weight, meaning, thematic impact, character, or story. There is just the violence and torture. Sure, you might get a torture porn film that has a flimsy "pizza guy shows up and his penis his hidden inside the pizza" plot that many porns have, but that is really it. The violence, gore, and torture are treated as casual aspects of the film. They are just what happens. And that is what separates the Saw films (so far) from the entire conceit of torture porn.
As an example, as I said there is a lot of violence, and it is shown more graphically. Yet it is shown with character, and just a little detachment so the audience can feel comfortable knowing that the person getting hurt is a character, and not real life. Yes, I cringed at the broken foot parts, and the many times the poor dude got his broken foot smashed. But it was getting smashed not just because someone was smashing it. It was plot, character, and story driven. The traps are complicated and difficult, and there is one near the climax that will probably be very hard to watch, though it isn't unwatchable or even grossly overdone and gory. There is a level of artifice there that actually allows you to be able to be more calm even though your empathy as you watch has you feeling their pain. And with the interlocked story that you see the traps through, it gives you another deeper character driven level to these sequences.
Saw III even has a specific moment that subverts the "torture porn" conceit by being the goriest and most frightening scene in the film, and it truly is torturous ... and it is a surgery procedure. Think about that. It is a thing we've seen in countless films and television shows, and none of them have this label "torture porn" thrown on the. It is a very clever use of subversion.
Forgive the long diatribe. Talking about film intellectually is just kind of a thing I love doing. If you couldn't tell.
Plot time. A doctor is stolen from the hospital so that she can perform emergency surgery to keep Jigsaw alive. Not cure him, as his brain cancer is killing him. But to keep him alive just a little while longer. This is the A-plot, and it deals with much more than just that, but I cannot say much more without really getting into spoilers. The B-plot is your traditional "man in a test/trap" sequence that every Saw film has. This one features a father, depressed from the lack of justice in his son's unfortunate death. His story is heartbreaking. And amazingly well acted by Angus Macfayden. Bahar Soomekh is also wonderfully cast, and seeing her character's conversations with Jigsaw are easily some of the best scenes in any of these films. The test that Macfayden's character Jeff has to go through are just as heartbreaking, and different from what we saw in Saw II and in Saw.
This film really perfectly finishes Whannel's trilogy of stories. Each film gets better, and this film is damn near perfect. I loved it. It does everything a horror film should do, as well as a thriller. It stuck with me and made me think about the deeper aspects of the film, as well as shocked and terrified me at the more horror-film style points without ever causing me distress. The script is almost completely flawless, and the Darren Lynn Bousman just continues to get better and better as a director.
Can the fourth be just as good? Or better? Man oh man, do I hope so.