Se7en

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Director: David Fincher.
Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, Richard Roundtree, Leland Orser, Mark Boone Junior, Richard Portnow, Richard Schiff, Charles S. Dutton, Kevin Spacey.

“He’s a nut-bag! Just because the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda”.

There have been many memorable serial-killer thrillers over the years ranging from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to Michael Mann’s Manhunter, through Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and even Fincher’s later investigative thriller Zodiac could include itself among the greats. Some of these titles mentioned might already strike you as the very best of the sub-genre but, for me, David Fincher’s dark and disturbing Se7en is the one to beat.

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After 34 years on the force, veteran cop William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is a week away from retirement. But before that happens he must lend his methodical and intelligent detective skills to his new, young and hot-headed partner David Mills (Brad Pitt). Soon enough, the detectives find themselves on the trail of a serial killer who slays his victims according to the seven deadly sins, leaving a sick procession of corpses, each one murdered in a way related to their own particular sin. Through time, the true motives of the killer are teasingly revealed to the detectives but they are never fully aware of their involvment with him… until it’s too late.

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In using a chemical process called “bleach bypass” – where the silver in the film stock is not removed, which in turn deepens the dark, shadowy images – an overall foreboding tone is what first strikes you about Fincher’s dark, atmospheric thriller. This tonal quality and cinematography by Darius Khondji is perfectly utilised to match the depravity of Andrew Kevin Walker’s twisted screenplay. It’s unbearably disturbing viewing and it maintains these attributes right up until it’s horrific and shocking finale. It shouldn’t be a surprise by now, to know that an uncredited Kevin Spacey plays the deranged pyschotic killer and he is suitably cold and menacing. It’s a great piece of casting, adding a bit more weight to the elusive character and good to see him turn up so late in the film. This is also one of Brad Pitt’s finest performances, he’s brimming with enthusiasm and confidence yet also displays a vulnerability with perfectly subtle mannerisms and, as always, Morgan Freeman is masterfully stoic and reserved. The real star of the show here, though, is Fincher. His uncompromising and dark visual style is suitably unsettling and he wrings out the depravity right until the very last minute, keeping the audience as much in the dark as his characters and the gothic, rain drenched city that they inhabit.

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An unforgettably emotional and psycholgical assault to the senses. The Silence of the Lambs may have been the film that received numerous plaudits and awards but when compared to this, it’s about as threatening as Little Bo-Peep. Without a doubt one of Fincher’s strongest films.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Denzel Washington turned down the part that went to Brad Pitt, telling Entertainment Weekly that the film was too “dark and evil.” Washington later regretted his decision upon seeing a screening.

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40 Responses to “Se7en”

  1. Great stuff mate. I remember seeing this for the first time at the cinema when it was released, and it blew me away. The ending had me gawping at the screen for ages afterwards – I couldn’t believe a major Hollywood film finished in such a way. Hard to think of a darker mainstream thriller – it’s almost like a horror at times.

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    • Such a great movie, man. Fincher really struck gold with this one. The end is a real knockout, man. And one that both Fincher and Pitt had to fight the studios to keep. I’m glad they won!

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  2. “The Silence of the Lambs may have been the film that received numerous plaudits and awards but when compared to this, it’s about as threatening as Little Bo-Peep. ”

    AMEN Muckers!!

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  3. Great review, the visuals are so powerful and the atmosphere is so tense. The sloth part always creeps me out.

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  4. It’s been ages since I saw this but it’s one of my faves from Fincher. It’s just so dark and gripping, and boy that ending is one you can’t forget easily. I definitely think that over the years, this one holds up more than Silence of the Lambs.

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    • It’s a hard call when choosing a favourite Fincher movie. But for me, it’s between this and Fight Club.
      Glad to hear you agree that it holds up more than Lambs. I think so too.

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  5. Nice review, Mark. I actually recently saw this for the first time just a couple weeks ago, and even though I had had the thing spoiled for me many times over throughout the years, I still remained very much impressed. But not only that, I was also surprised by just how twistedly FUNNY this thing can be at times as well. Fincher’s really got a way with dark humor that just works, and compliments his movies so well.

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    • That’s you just seeing it, Chris? Man, I wish I could go back and experience it for the first time again. That being said, it’s so powerful that it still makes an impact (even if you do know the ending).

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  6. Nice review Mark! Even though it’s been close to 20 years since the film came out, I still remember like it was yesterday when my friend and I went to see it on opening weekend. I wasn’t a fan of Pitt back then but after this film, I started to enjoy his performance. And yes this film is Fincher’s best work to date (haven’t seen Gone Girl yet), I’m glad many of the big name directors at that time turned down this project, Fincher was basically the producer’s last (only) choice since no one wanted to touch the script.

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    • Cheers Ted! Man, nearly 20 years and still as good. Personally, I think Pitt is brilliant in this. One of his best. I haven’t seen Gone Girl yet either but I really doubt he’ll top this. Fight Club is the closest he’s came in my view. Nice info on Fincher being the only one willing to take it on. That worked out great for everyone!

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  7. I had the unfortunate luck of actually seeing the ending first (during a film class) before watching the rest of the picture. Still, when I first saw the movie in its entirety, the conclusion still shocked me.

    Nice review Mark. I think I’d say this is Fincher’s best after Zodiac, and it’s a classic for sure. I much prefer this over Silence of the Lambs.

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    • You rate this more than Lambs as well, Charles? Nice one mate! It would that many share that view. Can’t fault you in rating Zodiac so highly either. That’s another great Fincher flick.

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  8. One of my favorite movies of all time.

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  9. This was another totally twisted and sick film that was delivered beautifully. Big fan!

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    • Yet again, we see eye to eye on two of Fincher’s best films. Absolutely solid piece of work this. Sick as hell but still fucking superb!

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      • 😀

        Absolutely no two ways about it! Spacey is just… he was phenomenal, and I love Pitt. I thought he and Freeman worked fantastically together, and just the way this movie was shot, the colours… yep, I can carry on about it!

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      • I was the same when writing about it. Really had to stop myself from rambling on and on. Pitt and Freeman are both superb and Spacey is outstanding. Spacey was outstanding in everything he was doing around this time, though. He was on a great run… The Usual Suspects, L.A. Confidential, American Beauty to name a few.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. So dark and so influential. A modern classic that’s given the respect it deserves my son! Stellar.

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  11. Spot on review mate. I think this is still my favourite film of Fincher’s. One that I really wish I’d seen at the cinema. This was one of the first films I remember seeing that had a massive twist at the end and it blew me away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Im torn between this and Fight Club, Chris, but im totally with you on the twist. Its one of the first films I remember for the same reason. The other being The Usual Suspects. Two endings that just knocked my socks off. (And Spacey was responsible for both)

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  12. When you adjust for inflation, it remains the biggest hit of Fincher’s career in the U.S. Seven deservedly connected with audiences and it’s easy to see why. It’s a superbly crafted thriller and that ending left me uneasy for days.

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    • I wasn’t even taking inflation into account but good info, mark. If it’s his most successful film to date, then I wouldn’t argue with that. Deservedly so! And you’re not alone on that ending, man. Brutal stuff!

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  13. You really have been catching up on some Fincher, but completely understand it…can never watch too much of him 😉

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