Genre: Mystery and Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.
Release Date: September 22nd, 1995 MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Fincher Actors: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Reg E. Cathey, Daniel Zacapa, John C. McGinley, Kevin Spacey
oung, cocky detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) has just transferred to a new precinct, led by older, wizened Lieutenant William Somerset (Morgan Freeman). Mills is enthusiastic, thinks he knows it all, and stands anxious to make a difference in his new, continually raining community. Conversely, Somerset is readying for retirement, tired of the monotony of violence and human filth. At their first crime scene together, Mills chatters and scribbles jottings in his notebook, while Somerset exhibits impatience for the rookie. The victim is an incredibly fat man, apparently forced to gorge himself to death. A motive is elusive and Somerset predicts that it will be the first of many killings for a complex new case.
Sure enough, a defense attorney is found slaughtered a day later, with the word “Greed” scrawled on the floor in blood. Revisiting the house of the obese victim, Somerset discovers the word “Gluttony” painted in grease, obscurely located behind a refrigerator. Cryptic in purpose but now clearly the start of a pattern of murders following the seven deadly sins, the duo gathers clues that deceptively lead to yet another victim, a criminal who was defended by the now deceased lawyer on an attempted rape charge. But this is just another piece of a larger puzzle – an elaborate setup for a string of executions designed by a devious madman.
Two distinct perspectives are followed as the pair of contrasting detectives separately attempts to solve the reasons behind the symbolic slayings. Mills uses Cliffs Notes in his research; Somerset visits a spacious library. Mills has a wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and three dogs; Somerset prefers his companionless solitude. Mills curses, is a victim to his emotions (resulting in easy manipulation), and is impulsive; Somerset speaks carefully and thoughtfully and avoids excitability. The film smartly spends time developing unique, discrete characters, shedding light on home life, details of an apartment, habits, relationships, insecurities, and even the eccentricities of weapon selections. Although generic in the partnering of opposites, Pitt and Freeman add a level of believability and naturalness to their roles that make the characters much more memorable – embellished further by intelligent conversations brimming with debate and commentary on the acceptance of inhumanity.
“Seven” features particularly grisly murders, involving mutilation, torture, and graphic aftermath. Environments are dismal, disgusting, shadowy, smoky, and betraying only muted colors. The seriousness is great, the comic relief sparse, and the tension high, aided nicely by Howard Shore’s nerve-wracking score and a maniacal opening title sequence (utilizing both beguiling contrast and chaotic imagery). The project even resorts to, on select occasions, an action scene or the spontaneous hunt for a ringing phone. Swiping the best trick from monster movies, the villain isn’t revealed fully until almost the very end, while many of the more ghastly homicides are shown via residual particulars, descriptions, photographs, and partially covered corpses. Slick, stylish, bizarre, perverse, morbid, and ultimately engrossing, the tone is reminiscent of “Silence of the Lambs,” while also boasting a conclusion so outrageous and unpredictable, it seems unlikely any studio would be accepting of it. Unfortunately, the ending might also be its only major downfall – due to a final, climactic reveal that can only be experienced once with blissful unwittingness … and can then never be forgotten.
– Mike Massie