Se7en (1995)

reviewed by
Chad Polenz

                       A film review by Chad Polenz
                        Copyright 1997 Chad Polenz

Chad'z rating: **** (out of 4 = excellent) 1995, R, 125 minutes [2 hours, 5 minutes] [thriller/mystery] starring: Brad Pitt (Detective David Mills), Morgan Freeman (Detective William Sommerset), Gwenyth Paltrow (Tracy Mills), written by Andrew K. Walker, produced by Arnold Kopelson, Phyllis Carlyle, directed by David Fincher.

"Seven" is one of the best mystery movies I've ever seen. It's extremely intriguing and suspenseful, but it's also quite fun. It's a serial killer mystery, but you don't care so much about making the killer pay as much as hope they just catch the killer.

The story is a cops-on-the-trail-of-serial-killer mystery. Someone is murdering people who are offenders of "The Seven Deadly Sins." A fat man (gluttony) was forced to eat himself to death, a lawyer (greed) is slaughtered by his own rich possessions... I could go on but revealing any more would give away entirely too much.

What makes this film so unique is the characterization of the "good guys" which makes the unseen villain seem so vile. Brad Pitt stars is quite excellent as Detective David Mills, the cocky rookie. However, Morgan Freeman is even better as Detective William Sommerset, the wise veteran on the verge of retirement (and he doesn't get killed by the end). There is a great sense of camaraderie here which often provides for a breath of comic relief. This is impressive because the mood is so tense, and the fact that it can be down-played as well as it is here (let alone at all) is quite an accomplishment.

The setting takes place in present day New York City but the art direction is able to give the city a feeling of the evil, scary place many believe it to be. The production design is superb, in the spirit of "Batman" and "The Crow," this film embodies the Gothic mood. The way the words fade in and out, along with the freaky Nine Inch Nails music really add a lot to the story on a subconscious level - even the credits are scary!

The killer's victims have no connections at all, and thus Mills and Sommerset don't have much to go on to solve the case. They can only wait for the next murder to occur which makes for tremendous suspense. We become just as tense and worried as the detectives because of this thick atmosphere of the unknown. Not that many films have such an interesting and intriguing screenplay as this.

The only problem I had with the film is the way in which Mills and Sommerset are lead to a suspect. Let's just say it seems a little too "mystery movie," or too convenient in other words. When they are led to a suspect by the name of John Doe, a terrific chase scene ensues. This is a typical thrilling element, but it works perfectly here because of the process of the story.

If anything, this film is the epitome of twist endings. I don't have to tell you Mills and Sommerset finally catch the criminal, but the way in which this happens is surprising. There is a scene of intriguing philosophy between the killer and the detectives, and even though he's obviously insane, his charisma makes for some good points. What's even more surprising is the last few scenes themselves as the suspense comes to a terrific climax as the film's resolution comes down to a question of what justice really is.

"Seven" is not just a film about crime, but about the evil within man. John Doe felt he was doing society a favor by ridding it of "scum." But as justified as he makes himself seem, we must never be tempted by such twisted ideals of justice.

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