“Se7en” is one of the most relentlessly dark movies ever made. Dark in subject matter, and dark on the screen. It’s also a polarizing movie – there are people whose opinions I respect and trust who can’t stand it, and in fact find it repulsive.
I’m not one of those people. Yes, there are certainly parts of it that are repulsive, but given the subject matter and the story, that would have been difficult to avoid. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it’s pretty simple – some maniac is murdering people in ways that coincide with the seven deadly sins, and the detective duo of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are assigned the task of figuring out who is wreaking this havoc, and bringing him in. The two could not be less alike – Freeman plays a hardened, cynical cop in his last week on the job before retirement, and he instinctively knows from the moment that the first murder is discovered that this isn’t going to end well. Pitt is a young turk, eager and enthusiastic, and sees the case as his path to the big time. As it turns out, he’s probably right, but certainly not in the way he thought.
The movie is directed by David Fincher, who got his start filming music videos and had his major film debut with Alien3, a film that was reviewed poorly but I thought was underrated. Since then, Fincher has gone on to the big time, directing “Fight Club,” “Panic Room,” “Zodiac,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I suppose it could be argued that in “Se7en” he relied on style more than he did on story, what with the constant drumbeat of the rain and the never-ending dark hallways. For me, it worked, especially near the end when Freeman, Pitt and their adversary leave the urban setting for the surrounding, very dry and plain desert for the shocking denouement. At the very moment they enter the light, they are in fact descending into a greater darkness than they could have imagined.
I’m not sure if this is really a spoiler 15 years after its release, but the other great performance in the movie is turned in by an uncredited Kevin Spacey, as the serial killer John Doe. The scene below, when the three are heading towards their ultimate fate, is one of the best in this, or any movie.
And last but not least, “Se7en” was also the movie that made me change my mind about Brad Pitt. Based mostly on his pretty-boy looks and “Legends of the Fall,” a movie that I thought was ridiculous, I’d decided that I couldn’t stand Pitt, but something about his performance here turned me in the opposite direction. He’s now one of my favorites.
So there, you have it: #50 on the list of my favorite movies, and the first entry in the “50 for 50 Summer Film Festival” – Se7en.