A REVIEW OF "SE7EN" A RETRO REVIEW, 1995 by Ryan Ellis
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One of the more unusual and suggestively violent films ever made, "Se7en" is just a few steps away from brilliance. However, those few steps away are only a few steps from a level of evil and depravity that few people want to discuss. The film received mixed reviews upon release, but there's an underlying sinister appeal and intrigue to this that many critics perhaps did not notice. At times it gets preachy about the horrors it seems to be criticizing, but the script and the ultimate pay-off are excellent. The shocking conclusion is just as unpredictable as the endings of most films ARE predictable.
This piece of work is 100% intensity. It's uncomfortable to watch, yet compelling. "I want not to look, yet I cannot turn away." The story creeps along slowly and deliberately, crafted by visionary director David Fincher. He has experience in tantalizing his audience with information and visions, but not giving away too much too soon. This is the guy who directed the ominous "Alien 3". "Se7en" is even more ominous because the threat is real. It's human and, while the script takes some artistic licence, the way in which the diabolical killer works here is actually realistic. That is, if a human being could be so intelligent, patient, wealthy, and disillusioned.
After the most bizarre opening credits I've ever seen (refreshingly different in editing style and musical accompaniment), the initial character development takes place. Morgan Freeman stars as Detective William Somerset, a knowledgeable veteran who is ready to give up on his job and the sickness of society. Brad Pitt co-stars as Detective David Mills, the young hotshot who is brand new to this unnamed city and full of fury to catch the bad guys. These two fine actors give the film its human qualities (along with the appealing Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Tracy, Mills' wife). However, none of them stands out above the material. No disrespect intended, but two other actors could have played these parts and the film probably would have been about the same.
An ironic note is that Somerset has only a week (or 7, that's SEVEN, days) left on the force to train his young protege. The title of the picture also refers to the 7 deadly sins, as chronicled by John Milton in "Paradise Lost"--Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy, & Wrath. Incidentally, I wrote the sins in order of how each victim was found. It's the last two sins that are the most intriguing and shocking, but I won't give that away. As I said, this has a great ending and no one should spoil it. Anyway, the brilliant killer sets out to make a statement to the world that these sins will no longer be tolerated and he makes the "sinners" suffer for it.
The two partners stumble over the corpse of a grotesquely obese man. They learn that he was murdered--forced to eat himself to death. The killer leaves small clues at this and other murders and, of course, Somerset and Mills are smart enough to stay with him all the way. If they didn't, it would be one short movie! The deliberate pace allows for craftsmanship of detail and story. We see a lot of blood, but it's not especially violent. The suggestion of what happens is far more disgusting than anything actually shown--like most of the violence in "Pulp Fiction". "Se7en" is gory, graphic, and disturbing, but all the gore is post-death. Still, if you tend to get queasy, don't eat food during this film.
Kevin Spacey plays John Doe, the avenging angel who claims that he's the messenger who will right the wrongs with his teachings. Like many crazy men, he has some fine ideas, but some sick ways of expressing himself. Spacey doesn't appear until the final 30 minutes and also doesn't receive billing in the opening credits. However, it's HIS appearance that turns this film upside down and for that he should have gotten an Oscar nomination. A great villain manages to make you either root for him or feel compelled to listen to his ramblings regardless of whether you agree with him or not. This character is so well written that it's hard to disagree when he says that what he is doing will be remembered by everyone. No serial killer has ever been so creative.
"Se7en" is blatantly unsubtle with its messages about the horrors of the world and it's often a little too depressing. What it lacks in those areas, it makes up for with believable dialogue, top-notch screenwriting, unexpected twists, and realistic characters. The technical aspects of the film are unobtrusive. Fincher uses lighting, music, and editing quite well, but his story is always the thrust of the film. Fortunately, we don't find out what happens to Mills and Somerset after the closing credits (which are run backwards UP the screen!). It's better to imagine what paths they will follow. This is not the kind of film you turn away from and quickly forget. It's got a sinister message and John Doe is right about one thing--the evils of the world aren't going to cure themselves. "Se7en" raises some tough questions and it's intelligent enough to allow its audience to answer many of those questions for themselves.
USELESS TRIVIA--Co-stars in 1995's "Se7en", Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey also competed for the 1995 Best Supporting Actor Oscar--Pitt in "12 Monkeys", Spacey in "The Usual Suspects" (for which he won).
This film gets an 8/10.
THE RYAN RATING SYSTEM SAYS... 10/10--absolutely outstanding 9/10--excellent 8/10--pretty darn good 7/10--sure, go on and give it a peek 6/10--so-so; ye ol' recommendation point 5/10--not quite worth the dollars 4/10--only if you have a free pass 3/10--don't go, PLEASE don't go 2/10--avoid even if you DO have a free pass 1/10--"Showgirls" territory; truly crappy 0/10--bang your head off a wall instead
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