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Review: Se7en (1995)

Se7en (1995)

Directed by: David Fincher

Premise: Mills (Brad Pitt), a police detective new to the city beat, trains with Somerset (Morgan Freedman), a detective days away from retirement, when a serial killer begins a week-long spree, choosing and executing victims based on the seven deadly sins of the Catholic tradition.

What Works: Se7en is a great take on the serial killer film both for its artistry and for its thoughtful commentary on society and the serial killer genre. The film sets up a fascinating dynamic between its three leads: Somerset wants to get out of the city because he is so disgusted with the violence and apathy around him, Mills wants in and still possesses the idealism and commitment to justice that Somerset once had, and John Doe, the serial killer expertly played by Kevin Spacey, is as disgusted with the city as Somerset but has committed himself to act in ways that make him similar to Mills. Doe’s sense of justice makes him a unique serial killer, one who is motivated by an odd sense of justice, and it blurs the line between cop and criminal in ways that are more complex and more interesting than other police procedural pictures. The film’s style borrows a lot from Alfred Hitchcock and a bit from Michael Mann, especially Manhunter, and Se7en uses cinematography and art direction to give the sense that we have seen a lot more gore and violence than has actually taken place on screen. The film uses the carnage of the murderer and the authority’s attempts to capture him to comment on how our obsessions with serial killers, and by extension the serial killer film, uniquely fit into our contemporary society.

What Doesn’t: Some may find Se7en just too unrelentingly bleak for their taste. This is not an easy film and it is unsettling from the pre-credit opening to its now famous finale. It is an exquisitely made film and its artistic qualities are not to be diminished, but some audience members may have to file the film under the “It’s good but I don’t have to like it” category.

DVD extras: The New Line Platinum Series edition includes multiple commentary tracks, explorations of the opening sequence, storyboards, deleted scenes, alternate endings, a photo gallery, trailers, and DVD-ROM features.

Bottom Line: Se7en is one of Fincher’s two serial killer films, the other being Zodiac, both of which stand with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and The Silence of the Lambs as some of the great serial killer films of all time.

Episode: #168 (December 2, 2007)