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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Seven

Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman
Director: David Fincher
Rated: R
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: September 1995
Genres: Drama, Noir, Suspense

*Also starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Roundtree, John C. McGinley, Kevin Spacey, R. Lee Ermey, Julie Araskog, Mark Boone Jr., John Cassini, Reg E. Cathey

Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

One of the most popular sub-genres in 1990s Hollywood was a serial killer movie. The trend was undoubtedly inspired by the great success of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, dark and disturbing exploration of man's depravity. Naturally, in the years to come many films tried to mimic "Oscar"-awarded classic, but few of such efforts proved to be extraordinary. However, one of such titles aroused great deal of interest, became one of the most talked about titles of its time and for a brief time even challenged the reputation of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS as the best serial killer movie of our times. This film was SEVEN, 1995 thriller directed by David Fincher.

The plot of the film, based on the screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker, deals with two policemen on a difficult murder investigation. Detective William Somerset (played by Morgan Freeman) is an experienced, cynical and world-weary veteran six days away from pension and he has developed taste for more cerebral and methodical ways to catch criminals. His young, ambitious, idealistic partner David Mills (played by Brad Pitt) is more impulsive and prefers direct approach. Two of them are paired in a case that begins with the bizarre and vicious murder of an obese man. It becomes apparent that this murder is just first in the series -deranged killer has some kind of pseudo-religious agenda and wants to preach against Seven Deadly Sins by staging elaborate and indescribably cruel murders in which victims and the method of their execution fit each particular sin. Somerset and Mills are taken aback with the levels of cruelty and evil genius, but also quite determined to catch the psychopath before he fills the quota and makes seven murders. However, all their experience and skill can't prepare them for the killer's diabolical scheme in which they too become unwilling participants.

In its time, SEVEN was hailed as the superb combination of inventive, original screenplay and great directorial skills and, as such, viewed as superior to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. However, the only area in which Fincher's film can beat Demme's could be found in the ability to disturb the audience. SEVEN is definitely one of the most unpleasant films to watch and many viewers could be haunted by its dark atmosphere and shocking images. However, the film itself is less original than it looks. Walker's screenplay employs some cliches, including the most obvious one - LETHAL WEAPON-style pairing of two detectives who are written as the complete opposites of each other. Another cliche is directly picked from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS - serial killer with god-like abilities and unlimited amounts of money and free time that allows him to plan and execute murder schemes with complexity worthy of German General Staff. In SEVEN this concept is driven to the extreme and, as a result, most of the plot's plausibility and realism is thrown through the window. To the experienced viewer, even the seemingly "shocking" finale doesn't come as a surprise at all - the atmosphere of the film is so dark and the evil that confronts the protagonists is so powerful, that the viewers won't have to read Borges' stories before they guess the outcome. The only good thing about that finale is the fact that it defies some of the unwritten laws of 1990s Hollywood, but this isn't enough for SEVEN to deserve its cult-like reputation.

Script flaws are, on the other hand, are somewhat compensated by David Fincher's directorial skills, definitely improved after ALIEN^3 fiasco. Although his background as a videoclip director sometimes rears its ugly head (most notably in "cool" opening titles), he manages to create truly compelling atmosphere. Carnage on the film is shocking and deeply disturbing, yet it is presented indirectly - through character's reactions. Unfortunately, in an attempt to maintain dark atmosphere, Fincher goes too far and Darius Khondji's photography is literally too dark and viewers at times have an impression of experiencing a radio play instead of feature film. The acting is, on the other hand, more than satisfying. Morgan Freeman is an actor capable of holding over water much worse films than this one, and his role of an old detective is one of the rare eye-pleasing things in this dark movie. He managed to overshadow his partner Pitt, same as Kevin Spacey in a minor but chillingly effective role.

All in all, SEVEN is overrated film, but it is still well-done and could satisfy refined tastes of viewers who want something different from Hollywood and are willing to risk their stomach contents to get it.

Copyright 2002 Dragan Antulov

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