SE7EN (1995) A Film Review by Ted Prigge Copyright 1997 Ted Prigge
Director: David Fincher Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker Starring: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Kevin Spacey
The writer of this film, Andrew Kevin Walker, went to my high school. There I said it, and I'm not lying (Andy, if you're reading this, I went to MASH and the school colors are maroon and grey). However, this may have influenced me more to become a writer (though not a good one yet), I viewed this film with a totally open-mind. Anyway, this is a near-brilliant film, written and plotted ingeniusely, and directed by one of the most amazingly visual directors working right now, David Fincher (of "The Game" and the underrated third "Alien" flick). Yet, I'm still not biased. Okay, maybe just a bit, but this film is still near-brilliant.
This film deals with a super-smart serial killer in the tradition of Hannibal Lecter, but, in a genius idea by Andy, is not even seen until the end. And, of course, he's played by one of the best actors right now, Kevin Spacey (who I knew of back in junior high, just to brag). The two cops are: Sommerset (Morgan Freeman), a brilliant old intellectual detective, who thinks rationally and is just generally intelligent (the guy has a chess board and uses a metronome to go to sleep); and - (Brad Pitt), a overzealous rookie who is almost the exact opposite of Sommerset.
In the not-so-genius vein, we get the cliche of the retiring detective (Sommerset) helping the rookie (Mills) start out in the big city. Of course, look what he has to start out with - a case that starts off with a giant Orson Welles type who is found to have been fed to death by someone. Then they find a lawyer who was tortured to death in his office over the weekend, with the word "Greed" printed on the floor in blood. Sommerset goes back, finds the word "Gluttony" in the fat man's dark apartment, and, following a trip to his local library, comes up with the conclusion that this killer is killing non-anonomously and according to the seven deadly sins.
No matter what the trailrs suggest, this is not a race car of a film. The plotting is very leisurely and allows us to take everything in. David Fincher is a master of creating memorable visuals and creating atmosphere (again, look at "Alien 3"), and we see some of his spectacular visions, even if we have to squint because this film looks like they canned all the lighting crew on the first day. Things are VERY dark, and the flashlights only help in a minimal way. But shots inside the killer's apartment, not to mention all the other ones, are chilling and damn-near flawless. Even though the pacing isn't fast and ferocious, we become tense watching it, mainly due to the direction, and the dazzling editing, which was snubbed at the Oscars for the more politically correct choice, "Apollo 13."
And the writing by Andy is amazing. He has created a memorable film out of what could have been just a typical run-of-the-mill "Oh, no! There's a serial killer on the loose!" film (i.e. that season's "Copycat"). Not only is the killer a genius, but he has devised a plan where there's almost no way he can loose. Praying on the character flaws of the two detectives, he brings them into his web, allows them to get close enough, then uses them for his "message." Andy has created a man who has a strong message that is almost indisputable and would probably be made by some "wacko" down the road sometime. He has pretty much made this guy useless by creating a character who gets his message across. I mean, after I left, I was depressed because the message was so true. And besides, the bad guy won, which is a Hollywood no-no. And this guy went to my high school (another interesting fact, Dean Koontz taught English at my high school before he was what he is, I guess).
The acting, of course, is great too. I mean, look what they're working with. Morgan Freeman, who seems to me to be kind of underrated, is perfect. I mean, this guy is just one hell of an actor, and he's likable and intelligent thorughout the whole film. The way he speaks slowly, and all his expressions, deem a man who is no less than brilliant. And Brad Pitt is very good here. He's a put of misplaced energy, which is exactly what his character is. And Gwyneth, who has three whole scenes (four, if you count...well, just see the flick), is, of course, awesome. Trite, but awesome. R. Lee Ermey, who was the drill sergeant in Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket," has a small role too, but he makes the most of it (one scene involving him, a phone, and the wrong desk is a classic short joke, in my humble opinion). And, of course, Kevin Spacey, captured in the year where he did four films, and finally got attention, is nothing short of brilliant. Like Sommerset, he speaks slowly and seems to always be deep in thought, sometimes rational, if you go along with what he was doing.
Still, with great direction, amazing writing, and wonderful acting, somehow this film got mixed reviews. I mean, what is wrong with this film? Is it nothing short of a genious film? It's dark, brooding, occasioanlly funny, satirical, smart, and entertaining. Along with "Silence of the Lambs," this is one of the two greatest serial killer films ever made. And the guy who wrote it went to my high school (I'm not bragging, am I?).
In short, "Se7en," if you've never seen it, is a great film, a highly underrated film, even if it grossed $100 million at the box office (mostly because of Pitt), and definitely should be worth seeing. And Andy, if you read this, e-mail me, man.
MY RATING (out of 4): ****
Homepage at: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/8335/
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