September 25, 1995 -- ``Seven'' is a disturbing film that lies somewhere in the twilight zone between a detective story, a horror story and film noire.
The film is expertly handled, but as it crashes toward its horrifying, inevitable conclusion, I felt I was being manipulated in a not too entertaining way.
The film is about a young, idealistic detective named Mills, played by Brad Pitt. He is paired with a wise, cynical detective near retirement, Somerset, played by Morgan Freeman. Sounds like pure Hollywood formula, doesn't it? It is not.
The first clue that the film is not a standard movie is when the opening credits roll. The credits are very stylized. The rest of the film is also an exercise in style. Every scene is dark, dominated by black and brown. The sets are close and cramped. Even the outdoor shots in broad daylight look dark.
The city in which the film takes place looks like New York, but it can't be. It rains constantly, yet there is a desert right outside of town.
The two detectives are on the trail of a serial killer who is executing people in strange and inventive ways, following the pattern of the seven deadly sins. For the sin of gluttony, a huge man is forced to eat until he dies. For the sin of sloth, another is tied to a bed and made to slowly waste away in horrible agony. The killer leaves few clues and no fingerprints. It turns out that the killer is more clever than even Somerset imagines.
Although the film is dark and disturbing and quite loud (the sound was turned up so loud it hurt my ears), most of the killings didn't really bother me. The sixth killing, of an apparently innocent person, even by the killer's weird standards, did bother me, but it did set up the ending of the film perfectly. By the way, this film is strictly for adults and is rated R.
In all, the darkness of the images, combined with the deafening noisiness of the film and its depressing conclusion, made for an interesting, but somewhat unpleasant movie experience. I do give credit, however, for the stylish look of the film to art director Gary Wissner and director David Fincher. The clever screenplay is written by Andrew Kevin Walker.
Both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman give great performances in this film. Pitt is a wonder as the unattractive and dull detective Mills. The so-called sexiest man alive manages to look ordinary and befuddled. Freeman's extraordinary performance is filled with subtlety, complexity and sadness.
I can't quibble much with the film as far as artistic value goes, although it seemed to be more of a manipulative exercise in style than a film with a real message about morality or humanity. As far as entertainment value goes, I give it a B. For those of you who like art films, it is a must see. You would probably give it an A, being less critical of such movies.
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