Posted September 23, 2010 by Alex Moss Editor in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

Se7en


David Fincher’s masterful crime thriller proves that to create true terror, less is always more.

David Fincher’s masterful crime thriller proves that to create true terror, less is always more.

Having been badly burned on his debut film Alien 3 (1992), David Fincher could
have easily chucked it all in and returned to a hugely successful
career as a music video and commercials director. Thankfully, he did not
and, instead, he turned his attention to a little heard of script by an
even lesser heard of Andrew Kevin Walker. The results are one of the most polished, near perfect cinematic treats you will ever encounter.

New to the city homicide detective Mills (Pitt) is partnered with close to retirement veteran Somerset (Freeman). The two detectives share little in common but are forced to bond by Mills’ alienated wife Tracey (Paltrow).
However, when a serial killer begins to dispatch people according to
Dante’s Seven Deadly Sins, Mills and Somerset must work together to stop
the killer’s horrifying spree.

On the surface, Se7en is a clever horror thriller, one that has been copied by numerous lesser claimants to the throne like The Bone Collector (1999) and most notably by the Saw
franchise, but where it demands repeat viewing is in its depth in
subtext. Kevin Walker’s script allows for endless parallels to be drawn,
which furthers the character interaction on offer. Mills and Somerset
are polar opposites, Mills a beer drinking, scruffy looking super-cop
want-to-be is in stark contrast to Somerset’s wine sipping, detail
obsessed old dog who has seen it all. What is often over looked though
is the similarities between Somerset and the serial killer John Doe (Spacey).
In many ways, they share the same belief system that the world is
corrupt and beyond saving. The clear difference is their moral compass
in guiding them to solve the issue.

Towards the end, Fincher captures this resemblance in the most
elegant of shots. As Doe explains his reasoning to Mills, in the back of
the police car, he glances in the rear view mirror and catches
Somerset’s eye. There is a communication there, albeit brief, that is
testament to Fincher’s terrifying attention to detail. He is the
Somerset of the directing world in almost every way. His direction is
seductive in its execution. The way in which Fincher orchestrates the
raid on the Sloth victim’s house is a master class in building suspense.
As the SWAT team storm the building the camera is kinetic, the editing
quick and then Fincher switches tempo to a slow track. In doing so the
energy of the moment shifts, we are no longer in charge, Fincher, like
Doe is able to pull the rug from under us without ever telegraphing it.

Fincher’s direction is supported to breath-taking effect by Darius Khondji’s cinematography.
In this Blu-Ray format, Khondji’s chiaroscuro lighting literally drips
from the screen as the torchlight cuts through the mist filled rooms,
before blinding you with an orange hue in the final third that, if
possible, fills you with more dread than the darkness. You never
actually see any of the murders in Se7en, only the aftermath and as a
result the events occur solely in your mind. It is here Fincher and
Khondji plant the most disturbing of images and allow you to wrestle
with them long after the film has ended.

With films like Interview With The Vampire (1994) and Legends Of The Fall (1994)
under his belt, Pitt was an actor on the rise. Se7en, though,
introduced the world to something of a powerhouse director/actor combo.
Certainly for Pitt whose career highlights have always come under the
guidance of Fincher, in films like Fight Club (1999) and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008).
As Mills he brings his now trademark cock and swagger to the role but
maintains an underlying insecurity. His bravado is a mask for Mills’
urge to be taken seriously by Somerset and as such Se7en represents a
clear highlight in the now mega star’s career. Freeman is always an
actor that brings gravity and intelligence to a role, so is the ideal
actor to embody Somerset. There is always more going on behind those
worldly eyes than you can possibly understand, making Somerset both
enigmatic and sensitive to an audience.

Released the same year as The Usual Suspects (1995) Se7en saw
the emergence of the real Kevin Spacey. Until then he was sidelined as a
bit part player but 1995 witnessed him take top billing. As John Doe he
finds a delicacy in the psychotic nature. It is never villainous
or pantomime but instead, almost, childlike and understated. His eyes
often wander in an innocent gaze. In doing this John Doe becomes almost
mystical in his presence and is all the more sinister as a result.

Intelligent and disturbing in equal measures, Se7en is a film that
keeps on giving. You will jump every time the Sloth victim sits up, you
will smile every time John Doe utters the words “I didn’t do that” and
you will delight in an ending that happily ignores Hollywood’s demand for happy endings. There
are few films that draw you in as successfully as Se7en and seep you in
the atmosphere, characters and story of the piece. To appreciate a film
this much you will find yourself guilty of at least one of the seven
sin, but being bad never felt so good.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com