While the SAW sequels never truly reinvent themselves to escape the basic structure of a SAW film, SAW V is about as close as the film series has gotten to a total makeover. It’s incredibly compelling – and that’s thanks to a pacing that never lets up and due to the strength of the plot.
Like most SAW films, there are two plots in SAW V. The first centers around FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) and detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Unbeknownst to everyone, Hoffman has been acting as the secret apprentice to the recently deceased Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). After narrowly escaping Jigsaw’s trap, Strahm becomes obsessed with the idea that Hoffman has been working with Jigsaw. The bulk of the film follows Strahm as he connects the dots and keeps Hoffman on the run. What makes this cat and mouse game so compelling is that Strahm revisits previous SAW locations from the earlier films – allowing for flashbacks that show Hoffman and Jigsaw working together. The flashbacks are superb – not only providing answers to dangling plot points, but also giving Tobin Bell another chance to shine as he continues to embody the character of Jigsaw.
The second plot follows a group of five people that must survive one of Jigsaw’s traps. These are throwaway characters, although Brit (Julie Benz) stands out as one of the stronger characters – mostly due to her having some common sense. In general, this plot is extremely half-baked. It doesn’t tie into the rest of the film, or into the overarching SAW mythos. The film tries to utilize this section as a commentary on greed and wealth, but it feels like SAW V pulls every punch it takes. Honestly, the film would have worked better if this whole subplot was excised.
The ending of SAW V is bold, and is a great surprise. In general, the SAW films are difficult to predict when it comes to endings. Even when the twist is expected, the nature of the twist is usually unexpected. In the case of SAW V, the twist ranks as one of the best twists in the series. It might certainly be divisive, but it’s shocking enough that I found it extremely effective. My jaw dropped when I first saw the film, and it continues to blow me away each time I revisit the film.
SAW V is a real treat for fans of the series. It rewards the fans that have stuck with the series, and it places a real weight on the events that have led to this film. It’s a ton of fun, and definitely one of the highlights of the entire series.