In David Fincher’s Seven, it doesn’t rain it pours. The city is wet, windy an unstable. Painted by Fincher as a “hell-hole” and mirroring our antagonist’s sadistic mind-set perfectly.
Combining Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as the two cops – one a younger hot head who thinks he knows all the answers, the other an almost burnt out veteran who knows he doesn’t, drawing out a stellar performance from Freeman; a veteran on his final week on the job. Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) uses all his combined knowledge and literal nose to try and track down our killer. David Mills (Brad Pitt) is far from there to make up the numbers, giving the most empathy for his character with the reveal of his newly wed wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and their shaky new apartment.
It can be said the success of this film comes from how, Andrew Kevin Walkers script slowly illuminates, drip feeding information- our killer has an infatuation with Dante’s Devine Comedy and bases his murders on the seven deadly sins; gluttony, avarice, sloth, lust, pride, envy and wrath. Cleverly giving the character a more righteous yet absurd tone, with shades of Hannibal Lector in ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ Or the atmosphere, tension and seat-gripping uncomfortability of Fincher’s direction, so roughly portrayed in his previous films. The film seems extremely violent. In fact, Fincher shows us less than we think he does of the horrific deaths of the victims. It’s Fincher’s skill that suggests we see more, e.g. a man is tied to his bed until he rots, with his hand removed to plant fingerprints (sloth); a model has her face cut away (pride). A seemingly 20 plus stone man is force fed to death (greed). All these littered with biblical references. In the same way as Man hunter relied on the psychological impact, so too does Seven. The victims are never killed onscreen. Only catching glimpses of the deceased at the crime scene, or in the morgue, or in the black-and-white police photographs that are flashed before us. Perhaps more disturbingly, you are mostly left to visualise in your mind the full extent of the killer’s atrocities when they are discussed, matter-of-factly, by Pitt and Freeman.
As the cops move closer to their foe, the movie shifts from thriller territory into the realms of horror, and it’s here that Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker pull off their greatest coup, a piece of cinematic genius – the most downbeat ending imaginable. With our Killer turning up 30 minutes before the end, in a twist fantastically put together. For this twist you need an actor the calibre of this man. The actor in question is not credited or revealed on ad posters or DVD covers so I won’t name him here just know that the film could have gone either way. It went the way of an almost masterpiece with a career affirming role for our villain.
You would be forgiven for coming away, emotionally and mentally, shaken and most definitely stirred, muttering to yourself that they couldn’t possibly have done that. But they did. For the ending alone, this is simply unmissable.
Seven can be guilty of being over acted in certain parts from Pitt but It doesn’t take away from the overall stylish gleaming, filthy package. It is, like Silence of the Lambs, a genuine original which keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Seven was released in the United States on September 22, 1995. Grossing $327 million at the box office internationally and is available on DVD and Blu-ray.