Staff Pick: “Se7en” (1995)


Se7en with Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt 1995

“Seven” is horrifying, but it’s not a horror film. It will leave you stunned and numb at the end. This crime thriller is brilliant, and it helps to kick-start David Fincher’s career as one of the most skilled and accomplished directors of our time.

The movie is incredibly dark, and it will likely leave a lasting effect on you. It certainly did for me. Memories are seared into our brains when experiences are coupled with intense emotions, and this film elicits those emotions.

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who chooses his victims according to the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy and wrath. Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is an experienced detective who is a week away from retirement. He’s logical and methodical and good at his job, but he’s grown tired of the grim reality of being a cop in the crime-ridden and unnamed city where he’s spent his career. Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) is his opposite. He’s young and eager, but he’s emotional, impulsive and unfortunately not very bright.

Freeman and Pitt are both brilliant in this film, and the tension and chemistry between these two opposite characters lays the groundwork for the story. At this time, Freeman has already established himself as one of the best and most important actors in Hollywood, while Pitt is just getting started. Freeman is at the height of his powers as he embodies the stoic and logical Somerset. Pitt reveals his acting talents as he captures the raw emotion and frustration of a character that’s out of his depth.

Spoiler Alert: I won’t give away the ending, but if you haven’t seen this film, I suggest you stop reading now and watch the movie before continuing.

As the gruesome crimes begin to unfold amid seemingly endless rain in the city, Somerset initially resists taking on a case that he knows will turn into a serial killer investigation. He reluctantly decides to stay on a while longer to lead the investigation, worried about where this case might lead. Mills is passionate about catching what he thinks is an insane lunatic, having no clue as to what they are up against.

Mills is married, and his young wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) hates the city but can’t bring herself to tell Mills she wants to leave. Paltrow delivers a nuanced yet powerful performance here as the sweet wife who is struggling to adapt to city life. It’s a small role in terms of screen time yet critical to the film.

Which brings us to Kevin Spacey as John Doe. Spacey famously was not included in the film’s opening credits or the publicity for the film in order to avoid giving away the story to unsuspecting audiences. Spacey has had an amazing career (potentially put on permanent pause due to his alleged personal misconduct), but this may be his best performance. The final scenes of this film, including the long car ride with Somerset and Mills transporting John Doe, are flawless.

Before this film, David Fincher was known as a music video director. His debut as a film director in 1992 was disappointing, as “Alien 3” was plagued by production challenges and didn’t live up to the expectations of the Alien franchise. The script for this film helped lure him back to directing movies. “Se7en” showcased Fincher’s talent and helped launch a career that would include masterpieces such as “Fight Club,” “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It’s a must see, and certainly worthy of a rewatch when you’re up for something this intense.


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