Overview: Two detectives—one young and ambitious, the other old, cynical, and jaded—attempt to stop a puzzling serial killer. New Line Cinema; 1995; Rated R; 127 Minutes.
Let’s Work in Reverse: In the decade after Seven’s release, Morgan Freeman’s propensity for voiceover became a popular cultural observation and ended up as a widespread meme. So, when the movie, which right until the last second is wholly absent of voiceover, fades out with two lines from Morgan Freeman, modern viewers can enjoy an unexpected and well-deserved chuckle. He had to get it in. But up until that point, the movie rests its weight on Freeman’s heavy quietness, his observational nature which feels like surrender. This movie is a reminder of the power of Morgan Freeman as an actor, when he’s permitted to provide internal participation rather than established presence.
Do You See Those High Tension Towers: Seven’s final sequence, from the car drive into the desert to the figurative bomb in the box, is as explosive a conclusion as a movie can offer. Often, I’ve considered leaving myself a note so that in the event that I ever get amnesia, one of the first things I’ll do is rewatch Seven to experience it again for the first time. After nearly two hours of watching Brad Pitt’s naïve and blindly optimistic Detective David Mills wrestle against his partner and narrative foil, we see him fully deconstructed, then destroyed to an unimaginable degree. Pitt’s performance in this sequence is top notch.
GluttonyGreedSlothLustPrideWrathEnvy: The modus operandi for the film’s serial killer is far-fetched and impractical, but jarring and effective for cinematic purposes. There are two reasons John Doe is so much more memorable than serial killers found in other films with similar ambition (and there plenty of these films). The first reason is Kevin Spacey’s cold, empty presence in portrayal. The second is the decision of director David Fincher and his screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker to avoid presenting any murders on the screen. Each victim is shown only in aftermath. The tortured, bloated, or emaciated corpses tell the parts of the story left out by witness testimony and the surmising of our clever detectives. The interrogation room sequence detailing the murder associated with lust would, on its own, make a short horror film better than most feature length horror films.
Ending in a Beginning: It may seem a small compliment, but the opening credit sequence for Seven is one of the great credit sequences in film. Fincher famously directed darkly stylized music videos for Aerosmith, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, but this might be his best achievement in syncing aesthetic with music. A menacing remix of a Nine Inch Nails hit moves the image of bandaged fingertips scribbling in notebooks, arranging sinister photos, stitching the paper together. The entire introduction works to prepare the viewer for an insane and demented exercise in style.