Leigh “Saw” Whannell’s second directorial work sits neatly next to Ex-Machina as an incredibly smart, entertaining and original sci-fi. It is exhilarating to watch something as competent as this without relying on major star power or Marvel-like destruction of the world as we know it.
Set in a future unnamed US city, Logan Marshall-Green’s tech-averse stay-at-home husband, brilliantly named Grey Trace, spends his day fixing internal-combustion-engine cars for the rich and famous, while his wife Ashe (Melanie Vallejo) works in a technology company providing artificial limbs to war veterans (mano-a-mano combat is still a thing in this future world). They get into an accident when their self-driving car’s auto-pilot feature malfunctions. To make matters worse, some thugs end up ‘rescuing’ them, then kill Ashe and paralyse Grey as he watches his wife die. As luck (?) would have it, Grey’s latest customer was a reclusive computer genius who just came up with a chip that could allow him to use his body again, with one caveat: he’s not supposed to tell anyone about it. He even signs a disclosure agreement on a tablet without reading the Ts&Cs. Before long, Grey finds out that the chip not only allows him to walk again — but it has a voice too that only he can hear.
So what does a former-quadriplegic do with his restored mobility — hunt the bad guys, because the police are useless.
Although the way things fall in place to set this up feels forced, it doesn’t take anything away from the world Whannell creates. This is one of the more realistic looking futures that I can remember. It is high-tech in many ways, but nothing has moved light-years away from what we currently have. It is liberating to have something that is not the dazzling sheen of modern sci-fi.
Beyond the looks and the world creation, Whannell also shows deft storytelling in Grey’s evolution form analogue to fully digital. The film moves at a steady speed, revealing information along the way, in between bouts of some pretty impressive fight scenes, which often end up in gruesome fashion (you can take the man out of Saw, but you can’t take Saw out of the man).
This is one of the best science-fiction films I have seen in a very long time and deserves its place in the great canon of the genre. Inarguably the best film I’ve seen all year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t feature near the very top at the end of the year.