This is perhaps the best in the series since the original. The always-reliable Tobin Bell is back for another round of flashbacks as Jigsaw, and steals the show in the few scenes he has. Costas Mandylor is also excellent, but the true star of the film is Peter Outerbridge as slimy health insurance executive William Easton.
The basic plot of the film is as follows: after Agent Strahm meets his sticky end, Jigsaw's successor Detective Hoffman (Mandylor) carries out one final game for his deceased mentor in the shape of William. William is thrown into a series of traps and must decide which of his employees live and which of them die, symbolising the decisions he makes when reviewing his clients' insurance applications. Meanwhile, Hoffman works alongside Agent Erickson (Mark Rolston) to determine if the secretly-framed Agent Strahm is in fact behind the latest Jigsaw killings, while Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) has an agenda of her own in carrying out the puppet-master's will...
The traps, though not an important part of the films for me, are extremely clever and ingeniously designed, with strong direction by Saw veteran Kevin Greutert, a world away from Darren Lynn Bousman's acid trips of filmmaking in Saw IV. In fact, there is one trap at the end which may well be my favourite scene of the series...
The film is all at once disgusting, shocking, emotional and genuinely surprising, with an astonishing pace and phenomenal editing and along with Charlie Clouser's score ensures that the viewer is left exhilarated, enthralled and maybe even a little moved long after the credits have rolled; and, of course, eagerly anticipating the next instalment, as this one ends on a cliffhanger the size of The Italian Job. There are many of Saw's trademark twists and turns throughout the film, keeping the viewer guessing while at the same time changing the whole perspective of the series up to this point.
Yes, it will be very confusing for those unfamiliar with the series, but in my opinion one who watches a film called "Saw VI" and expects to fully follow it without seeing the others is being a bit silly, especially with a multi-layered and interconnected series such as this.
It is very rare indeed for a fifth sequel in a horror franchise to be anything other than dire, but Saw VI stands out as an incredible achievement, a roller coaster ride more thrilling than all of the other Saw sequels combined, with more focused direction, great writing by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, some of the series' best traps and strong performances. If you're a horror/thriller fan then you're in for a real treat.
Most of the extras are the usual fluff, with some brief looks at the traps, the character of Jigsaw and the new Saw maze attraction. There are also a couple of pointless music videos and a pair of commentaries, one from the producers and the other with Greutert, Melton and Dunstan. The producers' track has its share of shaky moments, but the other commentary is certainly worth a listen.