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Seven (DVD, 2004, Single Disc) Reviews
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Seven (DVD, 2004, Single Disc)

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Into the Belly of the Beast: Se7en

Dec 20, 2005 (Updated Dec 20, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Direction, Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Supporting Actors, Story, Cinematography, Score

Cons:This is what filmmaking is all about.

The Bottom Line: Se7en is a top tier detective horror thriller that you MUST SEE. It's as simple as that.


Se7en (1995)

“Just because [he’s] got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda.“ Det. David Mills

Seven days, seven murders, seven deadly sins. Got it? That’s the basic idea behind the dark mystery horror thriller Se7en, a film that I believe is a modern classic.

Directed by David Fincher (The Game, Fight Club) the film tells its story with economy and style. There is hardly a frame that is unnecessary and Fincher knows the key to painting a bleak picture that keeps the viewer coming back again and again - always leave them wishing for more. In these days of excess, that is something more directors ought to learn.

The story is one that could be a cliché in lesser hands - an older burnt out detective breaking in a new partner. But Fincher manages to find the pulsing nerve center of the rocky relationship and keep it fresh for the entire running time.

Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is retiring in one week (seven, again) and is shown investigating a murder scene when newly transferred Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) shows up on the crime scene. Somerset gives him the cold shoulder and they do not adapt to each other right away.

It is a particularly grisly crime where a grossly obese victim has apparently eaten himself to death. Freeman assigns Pitt to what he perceives to be menial duties. The captain (R. Lee Ermey) splits them up when they complain and tells Freeman to finish the case and Pitt will be assigned another. As luck would have it, another particularly grisly murder takes place and the ritualistic manner tells Freeman they have a serial killer. He revisits the first crime scene and finds evidence to corroborate his hunch. Both victims have calling cards placed by the killer.

Morgan Freeman is quiet and bookish with immense dignity while Pitt is young and brash. Fincher shows the contrast perfectly as the older man visits the public library to do his research on the seven deadly sins, an archaic, almost forgotten piece of Catholic doctrine. He is shown taking meticulous notes from large dusty tomes like Dante’s Inferno, The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare, and the Catholic Encyclopedia. When he provides his input to Pitt, Pitt surreptitiously obtains Cliff’s Notes versions of the classic works, adding a subtle touch of comic relief.

Gwenyth Paltrow has a small but key role as Pitt’s wife who is not happy to be in the big city but will adapt for Pitt’s sake. She provides a catalyst for the two opposites, introducing them to each other by their first names, something that hadn’t occurred to them.

Fincher knows how to pace his film; he has spent some time on the first two murders and developed his main characters so you have a good idea who they are. Then wham, bam, he steps up the pace and murder takes place on the heels of murder. You have finally seen five murders when Fincher confidently introduces the murderer for the final act, a real show stopper.

That’s all I’m going to give you on the story so you’ll have to see it for yourself if you want to see how it plays out.

With violence and horror, less is more. Fincher knows this and shows the aftermath of the murders in brief snippets, allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks. This is the method used by the best writers and directors. Films like The Exorcist are so potent because they don’t show you everything. Your imagination is the best tool a director has if he’ll use it.

Morgan Freeman (Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption) is an accomplished actor with one performance, but he does it extremely well. This character fits his demeanor like a glove. Brad Pitt (Thelma & Louise, Spy Game, Troy) has never gotten the praise he deserves as an actor but he is perfect for his role also. The killer in his half hour of screen time almost overshadows the performances of the leads but they are strong enough that it is perfectly balanced. Gwenyth Paltrow and R. Lee Ermey (Siege of Firebase Gloria) are absolutely wonderful in their supporting parts.

Fincher has made a marvel of pacing, keeping the story moving forward briskly at all times The chase scene is extremely tense and one of the very best I’ve ever seen. Cinematography, by Darius Khondji, is dark and dreary, right in sync with the psychological state of the sad world Fincher depicts. Pages of quotable dialog, from the screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker. The scoring, by Howard Shore, is an integral part of the viewing experience that helps to keep the tension mounting until the horrifying climax.

Se7en is a film you could write a book about, there are so many possibilities, but I want you to SEE it.

The New Line Platinum DVD is a two disk set with a 2.35:1 theatrical format color version of the 127 minute film, FOUR full length commentaries, several featurettes, and a host of other extras. Even without the extra content, Se7en is a five star viewing experience. Must see!

For those who would like similar fine viewing in the mystery horror genre I recommend the seldom seen Copycat

-and Silence of the Lambs.

Watch a good film tonight!


Recommend this product? Yes

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