Film #2 on the 100 Movies Bucket List: Seven (Se7en)
The second film on my 100 Movies Bucket List is Seven, a film I know and love. Seven (1995) is directed by David Fincher and stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, as two detectives investigating a serial killer murdering people according to the seven deadly sins. From the very beginning, we are plunged into the dark, gritty and nameless city home to almost retired Detective Somerset (Freeman) and new transfer Detective Mills (Pitt). It’s a grim and grey landscape with seemingly never-ending rain and some rather dark and disturbing murders to match. The cinematography in this is superb. Fincher has created an almost film noir style crime thriller with an edgy yet stylish look and feel that completely encompasses the subject matter perfectly. It’s the bizarre incongruences, like Somerset using a typewriter while the rest of the precinct use computers, or the almost complete lack of cultural references, that give this a timeless stylised feel.
And the subject matter itself sounds, on the surface, like a by the book detective story. But Seven is much more than your average run of the mill thriller. Yes, the two lead characters Mills and Somerset are the typical cops you’d find in any police movie: headstrong impulsive young gun versus wizened sensible and rational senior. But the performances from Freeman and Pitt are top-notch, I’d even go so far as saying career-best, and this paired with a clever script and a fairly horrifying plot that bring this into the territory of one of the best detective movies ever made. The amount of quotable lines in the movie is surprising – any crime film that can include the line “Just because the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda” is on to a winner.
The central focus on the seven deadly sins simply adds to the intrigue and general intelligence of this as well. Regardless of your beliefs or background, it’s unlikely that there are many who haven’t heard of the seven deadly sins, and using these to murder people in rather horrific ways really enhances the threat and tension. Especially as the killer begins to leave hidden clues and hints in the hopes the detectives are smart enough to find them, which takes us as the viewer along for a rather interesting ride.
This is, without a doubt, very dark and fairly graphic with its crime scene depictions but it never feels like it goes too far. It’s gruesome and bloody but without that feeling of horror and disgust that comes from films that go over the top (i.e. the Saw franchise). And it isn’t all doom and gloom either as Fincher easily works in some rather heartwarming scenes between Somerset, Mills and Mill’s wife Tracey (Gwyneth Paltrow), as well as some well-placed laugh out loud moments that further enhance the realistic tone that the film is trying to betray.
However, the standout and most memorable moment for Seven comes during the last half an hour. For those that haven’t seen the film and don’t want spoilers, shame on you and you may want to read no further…. It’s the final scenes when John Doe hands himself into the detectives and takes them on a road trip into the wilderness to reveal his last two victims. Kevin Spacey, who wasn’t credited in the films opening sequence, puts in a stellar performance as the unnerving and downright creepy serial killer, whose motives are deeply disturbing. You can’t take your eyes off him in this final act. Pair this with a (literally) killer twist that no-one, let alone the detectives who have been one step behind Doe this entire movie, sees coming and a chilling denouement that perfectly wraps up the final two sins.
Seven is by far one of the best detective thrillers ever made. It’s a masterpiece in filmmaking from David Fincher and some of the best work Freeman, Spacey and Pitt have ever done. 25 years on and this film is a timeless classic.
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