Saw X (2023) – Review

Breathing new life into the franchise, Saw X provides a never before seen piece of John Kramer’s history and gives audiences an insight into the man who created the Jigsaw legacy. In this new instalment we see John Kramer (Tobin Bell) participate in an innovative new cancer treatment that promises a full recovery from the brain tumour which currently plagues him. All is not what it seems however when the true nature of this treatment is revealed and Kramer takes matters into his own hands, not to exact revenge, but to rehabilitate those who have wronged him. Saw X not only reinforces the morally ambiguous atmosphere that runs through the veins of the franchise, but provides an empathetic origin story for Kramer and creates an argument to justify the necessity for Jigsaw’s tests.

A primary theme in Saw X is that of seeing and perceiving. Jigsaw has always found ways to observe his games and sometimes even insert himself into them. This allowed him to watch his subjects without making himself seen or known. For the first time however, Saw X presents us with a situation in which Kramer not only reveals himself to his subjects as their captor, but moves amongst the games so he can be seen up close by his subjects just as well as he can see them. We know that Jigsaw’s games always reflect the immoral actions of his subjects; Kramer makes himself known and personable in the same way the people involved in his treatment did in order to lull him into their con. The only difference is instead of their lives being in his hands, they are in their own. Furthermore Kramer and returning apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith) watch the games from a room above through a large glass window. This also highlights the way that the con artists involved in the treatment would watch their patients on the operating table knowing full well they were going to die, and do nothing to help them. Saw X emphasises how perception is power and gives Kramer an almost omniscient ability, allowing him to provide his subjects with their own personal judgement day.

(Bloody Disgusting 2023)

Speaking of power, another first for the Saw Franchise is the power struggle engaged by Kramer and one of his subjects Cecelia (Synnøve Macody Lund). Kramer appears to lose control of his game when another variable – Cecelia’s con partner Parker (Steven Brand) – shows up to rescue her. As a result Kramer and Amanda end up in their own trap and the power shifts from the puppeteers to the puppets. After besting their opposition however, Cecelia and Parker do not take the opportunity to escape. In fact, they decide the best course of action is to exact revenge on Kramer and Amanda.

Cecelia wishes to make Kramer regret what he did to them and take responsibility by forcing an innocent into the trap alongside him. This portrays to the audience that Kramer was right to put Cecelia in the trap in the first place as she does not regret how she behaved, and given the chance would continue her con. The power struggle continues as unbeknownst to Cecelia and Parker, Kramer wanted them to believe they were in control up until the last moment when he takes it back. This power struggle gives perspective to Jigsaw’s purpose as it shows, given the opportunity, the subjects would not take the moral high ground and therefore deserve to be tested.

(We Got This Covered 2023)

Not only do we see the vindictive spirit of the game’s subjects but we learn of a compassionate side to our game’s runners. A stand out player in Saw X is Amanda who is aforementioned, Kramer’s apprentice. Those who are familiar with the franchise will know that when Amanda eventually takes over from Kramer her games are unwinnable and her motives vengeful. This movie gives us an insight into what shapes Amanda’s motives and why she becomes this way. One of the players in the game, Gabriela (Renata Vaca) is a young drug addict, similar to the person Amanda was before she was subjected to her own test.

Amanda empathises with this girl and tries to help her by delaying her test. Seeing herself in Gabriela, Amanda begins to question if she herself deserved to be tested and whether aligning with Kramer was the correct decision. However, after Cecelia proves that even in the face of almost certain death she would not change her ways, Amanda begins to realise that these people don’t need to be rehabilitated but in fact punished. Saw X drives home Kramer’s strict rules for his games as it shows how other people would abuse his power should they have it for themselves.

(The Mary Sue 2023)

Saw X contributes yet another tale of morality into the franchise emphasising Kramer’s importance as Jigsaw by showing us how the games might be run if the shoe were on the other foot. The purpose of this instalment is to convince us – if we weren’t already – that Kramer is not a villain but an anti-hero. It has always been a question in the Saw universe whether or not it is morally wrong to test the immoral. Saw X gives reason and meaning to who Kramer becomes in the later films; the movie does not try to justify Jigsaw’s behaviour by saying it is wrong, but says it’s right and shows us why.

Hope Lelliott-Stevens

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