Coming off the heels of Saw 3, Bousman once again creates a new film, but now with a new writer. How well does this one go? Well, let's give a quick plot.
The cops find the body of one of their own, a detective trying to figure out who Jigsaw is. A SWAT member, Rigg, has now seen two of his close friends die in their pursuit of Jigsaw, and it makes him entirely unhinged and angry, so he is sent home. There, he is thrust into his own series of tests as Jigsaw tries to get him to truly understand Jigsaw's purpose. In the other story, two new detectives, Perez and Strahm, come in trying to figure out who Jigsaw is, but who his second apprentice is, as the evidence shows that there is another person helping Jigsaw. We also get to learn the backstory to Jigsaw himself as a man, John Kramer, and how he became Jigsaw.
The film opens with an amazing sequence of an autopsy. Bousman shows his skill as a director in this scene, once more showing the "gore" and "torture" aspects of the film series in another subversion, as this is the absolute goriest part of the film. Empathic-ly it is not the most disturbing, but it absolutely is the goriest, and the film tricks used to show it on an actor who was actually there on set is incredible. It also is the "opening kill" which is a nice subversion of the entire series.
The traps in Saw 4 lack the skill of those written by Whannell. Not completely, but partially. Such as, the first trap we see does not have the signature Jigsaw story element of the explanation of the poetic justice of the trap. There's a reason, but it is a very lame one. Also, the characters we deal with this film are mostly uninteresting. I personally like Rigg and I have no problem with the actors, but they certainly are not as compelling as Jeff or Lynn.
The themes and plot of the film are great, but under realized. This movie is doing a LOT, and most of it works, but it doesn't go as deep as I wanted. There is this subtheme of who the new apprentice to Jigsaw could be, and with Rigg being prepped to possibly become the new apprentice, but it doesn't quite come to fruition.
I need to say, by the way, something I haven't mentioned yet in these Saw reviews (Saw, Saw II, and Saw III): Charlie Clouser is incredible with the music. He does so many small things that are wonderful with the music, and the actual Saw theme itself is one of the best parts about these films. It is Tubular Bells or the Halloween Theme; it has a character of its own.
The writing of this film, like I mentioned above, is just a little off. Not bad, just not as great as a cohesive whole. But this is also Bousman's best work as a director. The film flows beautifully, and is truly one of the best directed films I've seen. The writing leaves a little bit to be wanted on the plotting, and the acting isn't great, especially the actress brought in to play John Kramer's ex-wife.
Despite its few missteps, this is easily another of my favorites in the series. Just like 1, 2, and 3 made an excellent trilogy, an even stronger trilogy, in my opinion, is 2, 3, and 4. Watching those films all with each other has made me really come to love this franchise. Especially in 3 and 4, I'm so incredibly happy to have found this series and given it another chance. I can understand if other folks do no want to give this one a chance, and it isn't as good as the previous one, but I really think it finishes the story in an amazing way. Of course, it isn't the end of the story. We still have three more films! I cannot wait!
Cherish your life.