Se7en (1995)

Se7en is a 1995 crime drama directed by David Fincher. It stars Morgan Freeman as a soon-to-be-retiring detective, as well as Brad Pitt as a detective new to the city. The two end up being paired together in an attempt to find out who is performing murders in the city they are working in. Said murders correspond to each of the seven deadly sins: Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Pride, and Lust.

The serial killer is actually attempting to teach the world a lesson from the crimes he commits. One of the things that make Se7en stand out is how the crimes are never actually shown. The aftermath is shown, and in a way, this way is actually far better at showing the severity of the murders. Somehow, not seeing what happened during the crimes actually made their effect more powerful. This is likely due to the graphic nature of the murders, and with the victim often left in a terrible state, combined the autopsy results, you get a sense of the pain they went through, despite never seeing any of it. Another difference from other serial killer movies is that the killer is actually revealed a good amount of time before the end of the film.

The times in which the killer ends up being on-screen actually ends up being the highlight of the film. As fun as it is having Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt looking around crime scenes for clues, or reading The Canterbury Tales, once the killer is revealed and crosses paths with the duo, things really start getting interesting. It’s at this point in the movie where tensions start to rise, and you actually begin what’s going to happen with the main characters. Before the killer is revealed, there really isn’t all that much threat to either protagonist. It really is them just getting to the crime scene late, and trying to figure out what happened there.

In that regard, Freeman and Pitt each make believable cops. Freeman especially shines in the role and ends up being the better character. Pitt’s character is angry and foul-mouthed and creates a nice contrast to the mild-mannered Freeman. Their relationship develops nicely throughout, as do the individual characters. They start out hating each other but end up becoming fairly close friends. In this case, the movie is predictable. In most other ways, it isn’t.

Se7en is a film not quite as focused on solving the mystery as it is with telling a compelling story about the personality contrast between two police detectives.

Se7en isn’t really about the murders of random people. It’s about the relationship between the characters within the film, as well as sending a message to people watching it. The world isn’t a nice place, or so the film would like you to believe. This theme is carried right up until the final lines of the film. Thankfully, this theme doesn’t get in the way of the drama that is created through the story the characters take you through. The story isn’t all that thrilling, but the characters will grow on you enough to draw you in.

Even though the two major changes to the serial killer story are present, as well as important, I still couldn’t help feeling like it was still fairly formulaic. The crime scenes are shown instead of the murders, but the same effect is felt, and it wouldn’t have been all that hard to incorporate them in a flashback, or even as they were happening. Maybe a condensed view in some of the cases where the torturous murders took place over days or even months, but some allusion to them would have given the film an even darker feel. Even though they aren’t shown, they serve the same purpose and make the murders flow less than they possibly could have. They seem to move more from event to event, rather than having them all flow seamlessly together.

Se7en is a film not quite as focused on solving the mystery as it is with telling a compelling story about the personality contrast between two police detectives. The characters play off one another quite well and create drama with just each other. The murders aren’t showing in progress, like most films, but the aftermath is shown instead. This creates some bone-chilling scenes, which make the film quite dark in nature. Another change from the standard serial killer formula is revealing the killer with about 30 minutes left in the film. Once this final reveal occurs, the tension level of the film increases. The ending is also used in a great way to conclude an already dark film.

Conclusion: Se7en is a subversive detective/serial killer movie that appreciates in value with age.

Recommendation: It’s dark, but Se7en is worth your time.

Rating: ****

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