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Seven Film Review

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Autor:   •  November 15, 2010  •  1,818 Words (8 Pages)  •  520 Views

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Se7en is a dark, grisly, horrifying and intelligent thriller. It may be too disturbing for many people. However, those that can bear to watch it will see filmmaking of a high order. It tells the story of two detectives - one ready to retire, the other at the start of his career - and their attempts to capture a perverted serial killer who is using the Se7en Deadly Sins as his modus operandi.

As the movie opens, we meet Somerset (Morgan Freeman), a scrupulous veteran cop who lives a lonely bachelor’s life in what simply looks like a furnished room. Then he meets Mills (Brad Pitt), an impulsive young cop who actually asked to be transferred into Somerset’s district. The two men investigate a particularly frightening murder, in which a fat man was tied hand and feet and forced to eat himself to death.

His crime was that of Gluttony. Soon Somerset and Mills are investigating equally imaginative murders modeled after the other deadly sins, including Sloth, Greed, and Envy. In each case, the murder method is appropriate, and disgusting (one victim is forced to cut off a pound of his own flesh; another is tied to a bed for a year; a third, too proud of her beauty, is disfigured and then offered the choice of a call for help or sleeping pills). Somerset concludes that the killer, “John Doe,” is using his crimes to preach a sermon.

The look of Se7en is crucial to its effect. This is a very dark film, the gloom often penetrated only by the flashlights of the detectives. Even when all the lights are turned on in the apartments of the victims, they cast only hopeless pools of light.

Although the time of the story is the present, the set design suggests the 1940s; Gary Wissner, the art director, goes for dark blacks and browns, deep shadows, lights of deep yellow, and a lot of dark wood furniture. It rains almost all the time, save for the final day of the film.

In this jungle of gloom, Somerset and Mills stride with growing apprehension. Somerset intuits that the killer is using books as the inspiration for his crimes, and studies Dante, Milton and Chaucer for hints. Mills settles for the Cliff Notes versions. A break in the case comes with Somerset’s sudden premonition that the killer might have a library card. But the corpses pile up, in cold fleshy detail, as disturbingly detailed as seen in a commercial film. The only glimmers of life and hope come from Tracy.

Se7en is as film noir as it gets, with certain exceptions. There is no “femme fatale” to speak of. The only antagonist is the killer himself, doing enough damage to the psyches and lives of the detectives on his own without the help of a female character. The incessant rain promotes the feeling of hopelessness for everyone involved in the action, up to and including the killer. He even brings about his own demise, ending his personal anguish and his disgust for those he is surrounded by. The crimes themselves contribute to the film noir genre and atmosphere. We know someone is going to die, just not when or where. And we see each murder in such horrific detail that we can’t help but feel sorry for the victims and fight to keep the shivers from tracing our spines.

Se7en’s makers took great leaps of faith in order to give us not what we wanted, but what weвЂ"and the genreвЂ"needed: the confrontation of our daily ethical dilemma. “The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for,” Somerset tells us in haunting voice-over.

A movie like this is all style. The material by itself could have been handled in many ways, but the director, David Fincher (“Alien 3”), goes for evocative atmosphere, and the writer, Andrew Kevin Walker, writes dialogue that for Morgan Freeman, particularly, is full of wisdom, well read and prophetic. (“Anyone who spends a significant amount of time with me,” he says, “finds me disagreeable.”) Eventually, it becomes clear that the killer’s sermon is being preached directly to the two policemen, and that in order to understand it, they may have to risk their lives and souls.

Se7en is unique in one detail of its construction; it brings the killer onscreen with half an hour to go, and gives him a speaking role. Instead of being simply the quarry in a chase, he is revealed as a twisted but eloquent antagonist, who has devised a horrifying plan for concluding his sermon. (The actor playing the killer is not identified by name in the ads or opening credits, and so his identity is left as another of his surprises.)

Se7en is well made in its details, and uncompromising in the way it presents the disturbing details of the crimes. It is certainly not for the young or the sensitive. Good as it is, it misses greatness by not quite finding the right way to end. All of the pieces are in place, all of the characters are in position, and then - the way the story ends is too easy. Satisfying, perhaps. But not worthy of what has gone before.

Fincher is a masterful director. He knows how to capture the mood of his films through camera movement and lighting. He draws you along whether you want to go or not. In the case of this film, many viewers will be peeking out from behind their hands, desperate not to see, but unable to stop themselves. Pitt and Freeman complement each other wonderfully as the detectives forced to find this killer. The pain and distress in both their eyes and demeanors is enough to break your heart. Paltrow has a small, yet essential role as Pitt’s wife. She’s good, but her acting isn’t the most shocking thing about the part. The ending is way over-the-top, but so is the entire concept of the film. It was pretty obvious if you knew what to look for. If you’re up for it, it is one of the most well-done, intelligent thrillers in a long, long time.

A character soon cuts into the choreography between Somerset and Doe: Detective David Mills. He’s the opposite of Somerset: white, for starters, and young and hyper and vulgar. He doesn’t think he’s wet behind the ears, but, despite five years working homicide in some happier town, he hasn’t outgrown TV cop lingo and the obligatory high flier approach. During an autopsy that points in all directions to murder, Mills announces to Somerset and the coroner, “Gentlemen, it looks like we’ve got ourselves a homicide.”


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