Spoilers think the box needs to be returned to sender.
We’re finally at what is considered the crime thriller by excellence for a generation and still does. This was always one of the best reasons I wanted to do an anthology of David Fincher‘s body of work. This is the feature that all modern film noirs are usually compared with. The challenge for me is to watch it again and try as hard as possible to see it in the context that it was originally made leaving behind any internet memes and any other social media trend. Let’s see if it still holds up.
Seven (1999) is directed by David Fincher from the screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker. Veteran homicide detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is paired with young and irreverent David Mills (Brad Pitt), who has just been transferred into the precinct. They’re assigned to hunt down an elusive serial killer that seems to leave each crime scene and victim illustrating one of the seven cardinal sins.
The film establishes his characters crisp clear from the start. Within the first five minutes, we already know Somerset is methodical, follows his gut and pays a lot more attention to detail that his fellow officers. On the other hand, recent arrival Mills is more impulsive and irreverent. It’s all told with film language but the fact that we know who these characters are before the title credits roll speaks volumes. Don’t expect filler here, even the quiet scenes have something to absorb.
The cinematography is itself a mirror for the plot. Everything is rundown, dirty, with shadows everywhere. Here’s one criticism for any other movie where darkness and shadow are part of the set: Everything that matters is still visible. To be fair, there are scenes where the entire set is illuminated. For example, the scenes with Tracy Mills (Gwyneth Paltrow), his partner’s wife, are some of the rare lighthearted and fully lighted scenes. You can see the shadows in the set as the detectives go back to the case.
Rather than the usual buddy cop action flick, there is no testosterone competition between the veteran and the rookie. At no time does Somerset belittles Mills or tries to show him off. But eventually both detectives get their hands dirty, as the murders get more and more grotesque. Saying this is a gritty movie is underselling it. It’s very much an urban horror film. And when we meet our monster, our killer “John Doe” (Kevin Spacey – uncredited on purpose, sorry for the spoiler) which we’ve only catch distant and obscured glimpses is when we think the film is over but it isn’t. The ending has been quoted to death, but it remains no less brutal than when I first saw it back in theatres.
Extremely recommended. Obviously not for families, and it’s definitely not an action vehicle. There is buddy cop chemistry between the fine performance of Freeman and Pitt, not to mention Spacey. It’s also very much a subversive and classic film noir, one that compromises nothing and delivers its contents with an almost impeccable execution. Definitely holds up to modern times and worth more just a watch.
That will do for now.