To pull off an explosive ending, there needs to be a compelling catalyst. To do this, Saw X does something completely different from the majority of its nine predecessors: it elongates its runtime, pacing itself in order to establish its emotional stakes. “In order to honor Tobin’s character as much as we wanted to in this film, we did have to slow it down,” says Greutert. While editing the first Saw, he and director James Wan “talked often about the idea of ‘Never be boring’, which sounds obvious, but … I think we try harder than the average film to make sure that it moves. Every cut that I make, there’s a really strong reason behind it, even if it’s a very short clip, which it usually is in a Saw movie.”
He continues: “The whole first act is [about] getting deep into his shoes. I tried to really make it feel like an odyssey for him, coming down to Mexico.” Shooting the film on location in Mexico City is another first for the franchise, as the anonymity of its previous setting helped to dislocate its horrors from reality, while also implying that Jigsaw could lurk virtually anywhere.
“The bulk of the movie was shot in an abandoned glass factory in a really gnarly industrial part of Mexico City—no electricity, no plumbing, nothing in this place,” says Greutert. “One advantage we had, even though it wasn’t a true soundstage, was we were able to cover it on the outside so that we could pretend like it was nighttime. There were some times we were there all night, but mostly we were able to do day for night and that kind of saved our bacon, especially since Tobin doesn’t need to be up all night for weeks on end.”
New characters are also thrown into the mix, including the manipulative mastermind behind the entire operation, Dr. Cecilia Pederson (Synnøve Macody Lund). Casting Cecilia was crucial, as Bell was concerned that audiences would think of John as “being stupid for getting conned,” explains Greuert. “One of our big concerns before making the film was making sure that John Kramer still seems like a really smart guy,” he continues. “In the past films, he’s utterly infallible, right? In this, there’s a little bit of fail on his part, so [Cecilia] had to not only seem incredibly smart, but also very empathetic, somebody who you would trust your life with. We needed somebody who, once you learn a little bit more about what’s going on, you totally believe that she’s that person as well.”
Greutert discovered Lund via the Norwegian fantasy series Ragnarok, immediately recognizing her as “perfect” for the role. “I hired her based on her acting ability, but she turned out to be an incredible trooper and a great presence,” he says. “She’s over six feet tall, like a foot taller than me, or at least it feels that way … [She’s] a really gentle, thoughtful soul.”