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.
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.
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.
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.
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.