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Seven (1995)

February 24, 2010

9/10 Head Cases

David Fincher’s best work. Argue away, I’m standing by that statement.

Seven is about a veteran detective who’s anxious to retire and his rookie partner who’s green behind the ears as they work together to track down a serial killer who’s running through the streets of Chicago and murdering/mutilating some of society’s more unpopular folk based on each of the seven deadly sins.

I think I was in sixth or seventh grade the first time I saw this and, needless to say, it messed me up pretty good. Couldn’t sleep right for a week, daydreamed about it all day at school and I couldn’t talk to anyone about it for fear of getting an earful from the ‘rents if word got around that I had actually watched Seven. Oh, and I didn’t even see the theatrical version, just saw it on TV. Made zero difference, still horrifying.

Going off that point, this is one brilliant but messed up movie. It’s penned by one Andrew Kevin Walker, who’s done a whole bunch of crap before and after this, but something apparently clicked for the guy and he managed to write up one totally ingenious thriller that stays with you long after the end credits roll. It’s also a very smart script in that it leads you on, only letting you see the aftermath of the crime scene (the mark of any good horror movie), always putting the characters one step behind the killer who’s plainly smarter than everyone who’s trying to catch him and it’s not until it finally reaches an apex of horror that you see the whole picture for what it really is.

The dialogue is good and the pacing is good, but it’s the premise and the killer’s motives that dropkick your conscience, rack your brain and make you walk down the street with a different view on the world from that point on that really make this script stand out.

But even so, this is Fincher’s movie all the way. The thing that’s always stuck out for me about Fincher is the way he manipulates shadows and starkly contrasts light with dark, and more often than not leaning towards dark. The way he turns the city of Chicago into this grimy cesspool that rains buckets for days on end, blocking out any trace of the sun until the last scene, all of Fincher’s visuals complement the utterly grim nature of this movie in every facet. Some of the imagery is nothing short of striking and though he’s only gotten better since, this will always be my essential Fincher experience. Something about that shot of an anonymous killer in a raincoat with a gun aimed right at a helpless Brad Pitt’s temple in the middle of a storm always sticks out to me. Totally wild stuff.

Also features one of the best opening credits sequences I’ve ever seen set to one totally creepy remix of “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. Like that song wasn’t creepy enough to begin with.

The acting’s also pretty solid. Brad Pitt ain’t bad as the new guy, David Mills, and Morgan Freeman is awesome as William Somerset, the voice of reason in the partnership. And then there’s Kevin Spacey, and, well, Kevin Spacey steals the show. Unfortunately can’t go into much detail other than that, but trust me, you’ll be remembering Kevin Spacey. Come on, it’s Verbal Kint we’re talking about here, should be no surprise that he steals the show.

There aren’t a whole lot of movies out there that have shook me up the way Seven did, and not so much because of shock value, but rather because of what it has to say. Everyone remembers “the box” for good reason, but it’s that last speech of Spacey’s in the back of the car that always does it for me. Thrillers rarely delve this deep into the mind of a psychopath, nor do they tend to get the audience to practically connect with the psychopath on a level of understanding. I love Fight Club as much as the next guy, but Seven‘s in a league of its own on a number of levels.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2010 8:19 am

    This was my favourite film for a long time (it’s now been usurped but I’d say it’s still in the top 10). I’ve said before in various different places that Fincher is so good because he is the master of tone and pace. Some of his films are similar, some are different but each one sets an appropriate and tangible tone and moves at an appropriate and justifiable pace. That’s not to diminish his other accomplishments, but he is master of those two particular aspects of film making.

    The famous bit of trivia related to Seven is that Pitt had it written in to his contract that the end of the film couldn’t be changed. Possibly the best contract clause choice in the history of contract clauses.

    • February 24, 2010 11:08 am

      Wow, way to go Brad! That’s an awesome piece of trivia, really glad they stuck with it. Good points about Fincher, too. Dude knows what he’s doing alright.

  2. February 24, 2010 9:23 am

    Yeah, terrific film and fine performances. Still Fincher’s best.

  3. February 24, 2010 11:27 am

    I think I watch it the first time on TV too when I was around the same age as you…that version no doubt would have been heavily edited…and I have yet to watch the theatrical cut. Of course its been years since then but like you said this is a movie that stuck. And I knew nothing of the movie when I first saw it…cause I was a kid…but the spoiler was that I had read the names of the cast in a TV summary, and when I didn’t see Kevin Spacey in like the first 15 minutes…I knew he was the guy.

    • February 24, 2010 11:29 am

      Haha, yeah, it’s not much use me trying to hide it, but that was something else seeing it for the first time. Worth seeing the unedited cut though. Left out a couple key scenes on TV.

  4. Darren permalink
    February 24, 2010 12:27 pm

    Love the movie. Spacey is amazing in it. And speaking of contractual clauses about movie endings which can’t be changed, apparently Darabonte had the same deal with The Mist.

    • February 24, 2010 12:32 pm

      Still haven’t seen that one. Was one of the few people who actually wanted to see it when it was out. Will give it a look one of these days.

      • Kevin permalink
        February 24, 2010 12:36 pm

        I thought the ending of The Mist was terrible. I seriously just laughed and laughed. Also the special effects in that movie were a little lacking IMO.

        But as for Se7en (as it is known on the IMDB), just reading this makes me want to watch it. Great movie.

  5. February 24, 2010 2:20 pm

    One of my favorite movie of all time. Such a thrilling and creepy atmosphere, that’s the most memorable thing about it.

  6. Branden permalink
    February 24, 2010 3:12 pm

    You think this movie is better that Fight Club? Hmm…

  7. February 24, 2010 3:24 pm

    Kind of curious why you didn’t go the full 10, Aiden.

    But I agree, Seven is Fincher’s best work.

    • February 24, 2010 3:28 pm

      It’s not quite at Holy Grail status, but it’s close. Gotta save those 10’s, man. Use ’em sparingly.

      • February 24, 2010 4:50 pm

        That’s what I keep the A+ for. Never used it so far 😉

  8. February 24, 2010 5:30 pm

    Is it because you guys haven’t seen a film that qualifies as a Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Dr. Strangelove?

    Or is it more like a TA that refuses to give an A because it means she’s going to easy on everyone?

    • February 24, 2010 5:32 pm

      Haha, I’ve given out my fair share of 10s so far, just didn’t think Seven was quite at that level. Last thing I need is a TA rep.

  9. February 25, 2010 8:55 am

    not awful

  10. February 26, 2010 10:46 am

    Fight Club and Seven are outstanding….sorry Se7en. But some of his other work bored the pants off a me. Benjamin Button was aweful to watch. And the one that people seem to love, Zodiac! Really didn’t see the point of that film. But ya, Se7en is the shizz.

  11. February 26, 2010 1:42 pm

    Seven is one of the most overrated films in my opinion. The entire premise of the film just seems like a cheap way to string along these grotesque set-pieces without actually developing any kind of compelling narrative.

    This is actually my least favorite Fincher. While he’s got good direction on display the story just never worked for me. I prefer the much more suspenseful and uneasy Zodiac.

    Still, it works as quite a disturbing and unsettling film.

  12. March 16, 2010 9:34 am

    Oh James, always wrong you are. 🙂 I agree that Se7en is Fincher’s bets work, edging out Fight Club for that honor. There’s a gritty eranestness to this picture that I don’t think Fincher has ever been able to reproduce, no matter how hard he tries.


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