Saturday, 4 February 2012

Movie Review: Seven (1995)


A dark, gloomy serial killer mystery, Seven (also known as Se7en) unapologetically starts in a depressed mood and just descends deeper into despair. The gloomy violence is gripping, and the ever tightening spiral of anguish culminates in a stunning ending.

Veteran homicide detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is seven days away from retirement. His replacement is the young and cocky detective David Mills (Brad Pitt), new in town and married to Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow). Somerset's career dealing with the scum of society has worn him down into an eternal pessimist. With retirement in sight, his mood is not helped by the sequential discovery of horribly mutilated bodies, with the killer leaving behind messages alluding to the seven deadly sins.

Mills and Somerset gradually learn to work together, but the ruthless serial killer is always a few steps ahead of them. As the body count approaches seven, the murderer suddenly engages openly with Mills and Somerset, taunting them as he methodically works his way to conquering the complete set of sins.

In the unnamed city that serves as the setting for Seven, it never stops raining. The overriding image created by director David Fincher is of a filthy, perpetually damp and downcast city, the perfect breeding ground for a monster. Bathed in dingy yellows, browns and reds, most of the action takes place in decrepit homes and buildings, and back alleys filled with nondescript debris and life's undesirables. Fincher creates the sense that the rats and cockroaches are just below the camera's gaze, and that Somerset would rather deal with those rodents and insects than the human sleaze.

Morgan Freeman delivers a performance of prodigious understated power, Somerset a man beaten down but not defeated by injustice. With a minimal amount of expressiveness Freeman makes it abundantly clear that Somerset will maintain his focus to the scheduled end of his career and beyond if necessary, accepting on his own terms the challenge thrown his way in the final week of an exhausting shift.

Brad Pitt matches Freeman in intensity, his David Mills also encumbered by a worrying sense of over-confidence that will nibble away at his ability to match wits with the murderer. The gruesome killings are an almost unfair introduction for Mills, the incoming detective welcomed by the worst that the city has to offer before he has the opportunity to gain the necessary seasoning. Pitts takes Mills on a most turbulent journey, a still-optimistic cop forced to confront unimaginable human brutality.

Paltrow and Kevin Spacey have small but pivotal roles, Paltrow eliciting empathy as Tracy circumvents her husband and turns to Somerset for advice and comfort, Spacey cold as a field of ice and just as dominant whenever he thrusts himself into the movie.

Seven never wavers from its mission to explore the darkest corners of the human soul, and uncovers ugliness with masterful efficiency.






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