David Fincher is known for directing some pretty dark films, and Seven is no doubt one of his darkest–not just in subject matter and tone, but also in use of lighting and location. It’s usually raining outside in the gloomy unnamed city in which this movie takes place, and any inside locations are always shadowy, not to mention grimy. I guess this kind of fits the bill, seeing as how the general idea of Seven is that the world is quite a dark and screwed up place to live in. This is a thriller that unforgivingly shocks you with its bloody and gruesome take on the seven deadly sins, and through a rather pessimistic main character, makes it pretty clear early on that it’s not going to end well.
Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is a soon to retire homicide detective who has a jaded and negative outlook on the world. He finds himself working alongside a young rookie detective named Mills (Brad Pitt), who opposes his views, naively thinking that he has the ability to make the world a better place. Their first encounter happens during an investigation of a murder of an obese man, followed shortly after by the murder of a rich lawyer. When they find the words “gluttony” and “greed” written at the crime scenes, it becomes clear that the murderer is preaching something at them, one deadly sin at a time.
There aren’t many actors out there who would better fit the role of a wise, veteran cop than Morgan Freeman. He gives a great performance as a smart, witty and determined man who isn’t afraid take off the rose colored glasses and see the world for what it really is. He’s the type of guy you wouldn’t hesitate to go to for advice, so it’s not surprising when Mills’ wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) seeks him out for help. He is undoubtedly one of the more talented actors in this movie, however, Brad Pitt can also hold his own. Unlike in Fight Club, he isn’t taking off his shirt and beating up other guys in basements, which makes it a little easier to focus on his acting rather than anything else. He is believable as the naive guy who just wants to bust the bad guys no matter what it takes, even if it means forcibly reading the cliff notes to the frustrating Dante’s Inferno in order to better understand the mind of the murderer.
I also have to mention Kevin Spacey as the murderer. I don’t know why Kevin Spacey can play villains so well, but it’s a gift he’s used to his benefit. He’s the creepy and soft-spoken sociopath who is so calm and collected most of the time that it’s hard to tell what he’s going to do next. One of the few problems I had with this film, though, is that a talent like Spacey doesn’t even show up until 90 minutes in. When he does show up, though, he just owns the whole show.
The final act is something that the studio and producers were against at first, and it was only after Fincher and Pitt fought for it, that they allowed them to keep it the way screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker had originally written it. If the studios always got their way, I would imagine there would be so many good movies out there that would’ve ended up on the “this movie sucks” list, and Seven could’ve possibly been one of them. I think that if the final act didn’t play out the way it did, then the seven deadly sins wouldn’t have come full circle, and it wouldn’t have had the same impact. The ending is depressing to say the least, the whole movie is depressing really, but it leaves a lasting impression after it ends.
Gluttony, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and wrath–it’s ironic that these supposed “deadly” sins are some of the most common committed by people every day. Kevin Spacey’s character alludes to this, mentioning that we are so used to seeing them, they’ve become trivial, and it’s true. Any movie with this kind of a message you can’t expect to end happily. Even in this final scene, it’s one of the only scenes in the movie where rain isn’t coming down like a flood, and instead, the sun is shining. Spacey’s character sheds a light on Detective Mills, and it isn’t until this scene where he finally realizes, shit, the world really does suck and I can’t change it.
Seven isn’t exactly an easy movie to watch, but it’s worth watching at least once. Most of the violence is shown through the crime scenes after they’ve been committed, although, yeah, some of it is definitely gross. Aside from one short on foot chase scene in the rain, this isn’t one of those crime mystery type movies where the cops end up in car chases and shoot outs with the killer, it’s slowly paced for the most part, but not enough to bore you. I wouldn’t say that Seven is David Fincher’s best film, but it’s one of his better ones. It’s an intriguing thriller and the performances alone make this worth the watch.