Saturday, November 12, 2016
Directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker, Se7en is the story of a soon-to-be-retired detective who teams up with a young detective to investigate a series of mysterious killings based on the seven deadly sins. The film is a suspense-thriller that explores the seven deadly sins as two men try to catch its killer. Starring Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Roundtree, and Kevin Spacey. Se7en is an eerie and haunting film from David Fincher.
The film follows two detectives taking part in a week-long case involving a series of mysterious murders based on the seven deadly sins as it becomes more deadly and complex. That is the simple premise of the film as it explores not just the idea of sin but what two different detectives are dealing with as one is about to retire while the other has just arrived from another city. Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay has this amazing structure as it is told in the span of a week where Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) spends his last days devoted to this case with the help of his new yet short-tempered partner Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) who has transferred himself from another city with his wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow). In the course of the week, the two delve into mysterious murders as it gets more intricate with each sin that follows where it also becomes more gruesome.
One of the aspects of the script that is engaging is the partnership between Somerset and Mills as it starts off with two men in very different places as the former is uncertain in working with someone that is young and kind of cynical while the latter isn’t sure about working with some old man who probably hasn’t done a lot of action and knows too much. Still, their relationship does gradually develop as Somerset gets to know Mills and meet Tracy where she would bring a warm side to Somerset as she would tell him a secret that her husband doesn’t know yet. During the search of the killer, the two detectives try to figure out what is going on as it leads to that last day where both men are on the same page but there is still that surprise that would lead to the basis of the mystery and the man who committed them.
David Fincher’s direction is definitely dark as it makes no bones that this isn’t some conventional thriller as much of the film takes place during rainy days. While much of the film is shot in Los Angeles with the exception of its climax that is shot near Lancaster, California, the film is set into something that looks and feels like any other American city where it’s kind of seedy and chaotic as these murders only just make things worse. Fincher’s usage of hand-held cameras for some of the chases and action-based scenes are quite engaging yet it is his approach to how he build up the suspense and sense of danger that is entrancing from the usage of the wide and medium shots to capture the crime scenes to the extreme close-ups of every attention to detail of the bodies and such in the crime scenes.
Fincher would also use some intricate tracking shots with the hand-held cameras and steadicam to capture some of the action such as a sequence in a massage parlor where some of the most gruesome acts of murder have occurred. By the time the film reaches its third act as its killer is unveiled, something interesting happens as it relates to the killer and the theme of the seven deadly sins. The climax is interesting as it is all about control as well as what some will do as Fincher presents it with a lot of style from the usage of helicopter-based shots to what is happening in the ground. Even as it lead to moments that are very shocking with some moral implications as it says a lot about the dark aspects of humanity. Overall, Fincher creates a intoxicating yet unsettling film about two detectives taking on a murder case based on the seven deadly sins.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of low-key lights and moods to play into the film‘s eerie tone for many of the interiors and exteriors along with the sunny but chilling climax as it include some additional work from Harris Savides who also shoots the film‘s opening title sequence. Editor Richard Francis-Bruce does excellent work with the editing with some jump-cuts for some of the high-octane action moments along with some unique rhythms to play into the suspense. Production designer Arthur Max, with set decorator Clay A. Griffith and art director Gary Wissner, does fantastic work with the look of the apartment homes that the detectives live in as well as the police precinct offices and the mysterious apartment of the killer. Costume designer Michael Kaplan does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual from the clothes the detectives wear as well as the mysterious look of the killer.
Makeup supervisor Jean Ann Black, along with special effects makeup artist Rob Bottin and supervising hair stylist/makeup artist Michael White, does amazing work with the look of the victims in the decayed state they‘re in as it play into the macabre tone of the film. Visual effects supervisor Greg Kimble does terrific work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects as it involves bits of set dressing as well as in the film‘s opening title sequence. Sound designer Ren Klyce and sound editor Patrick Dodd do superb work with the film‘s sound as it has a lot of layers into the way some of the moments of action sound such as a chase scene as well as in the way police sirens and sparse moments are presented. The film’s music by Howard Shore is great as its orchestral-based score is filled with bombastic string arrangements to play into the suspense and drama as well as moments that are low-key through its somber pieces. The film’s music soundtrack is a mixture of music from Johann Sebastian Bach, Thelonious Monk, Haircut 100, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Marvin Gaye, Gloria Lynne, the Statler Brothers, Gravity Kills, Nine Inch Nails, and David Bowie.
The casting by Kerry Barden, Billy Hopkins, and Suzanne Smith is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Michael Massee as a massage parlor manager, Leland Orser as a traumatized man at the massage parlor, Reg E. Cathey as the coroner, Mark Boone Junior as a greasy FBI agent friend of Somerset, Hawthorne James as a friend of Somerset who watches over the police library, Richard Schiff as John Doe’s attorney, Julie Araskog as the wife of one of the victims, and John C. McGinley in a terrific small role as a SWAT team leader. Richard Roundtree is superb as District Attorney Martin Talbot as a no-nonsense man who is trying to make sure the case doesn’t get out of control for the public. R. Lee Ermey is excellent as the police captain who is an old friend of Somerset as he tries to ensure things go well while making sure Somerset and Mills do their jobs. Gwyneth Paltrow is fantastic as Tracy as Mills’ wife who is trying to adjust to her new home as well as confide in Somerset of a secret and asking for his advice as she is the one person that humanizes both Mills and Somerset.
Kevin Spacey is incredible in his mysterious role as John Doe as a man who isn’t seen much in the film until the third act where he has this odd presence about him that is intriguing to watch as it is one of Spacey’s defining performances. Brad Pitt is amazing as Detective David Mills as this young detective who is new to town as he’s not keen on having Somerset as his partner as he is kind of cocky as well as be a prick yet Pitt makes him so engaging as well as have him be grounded once he realizes the seriousness of the case. Finally, there’s Morgan Freeman in a brilliant performance as Detective Lt. William Somerset as a man that has seen a lot as he’s about to retire until the complexity of the murder case as he tries to find many things while becoming frustrated with its brutality as he and Pitt have a great rapport as two men who are opposites yet find common ground in the way things have become.
Se7en is a phenomenal film from David Fincher that features sensational performances from Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, and Kevin Spacey. Along with a superb supporting cast, gorgeous yet eerie visuals, and a haunting music score and soundtrack. It’s a film that isn’t just a smart and intricate suspense-thriller but one that is filled with many layers that explore the dark aspects of humanity. In the end, Se7en is an astounding film from David Fincher.
David Fincher Films: Alien 3 - The Game - Fight Club - Panic Room - Zodiac - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - The Social Network - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 film) - Gone Girl
Related: 15 Essential Videos by David Fincher - The Auteurs #61: David Fincher
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