Worth A Look: 9.14%
Pretty Bad: 5.58%
Total Crap: 4.57%
7 reviews, 155 user ratings
by MP Bartley
Can there ever be such a thing as a 'perfect' film? Something that's beyond criticism, untouchable and um-improvable? You could argue 'yes' or 'no' for as long as you like, but one thing's for sure, whatever side of the fence you come down on, you've got to admit that 'Se7en' is as close to cinematic perfection as you're likely to get.Think about it, what is there to improve in 'Se7en'? Absolutely nothing. Everything works majestically - the look, the script, the characters, the actors, the production design, the cinematography - hell, 'Se7en' is a film where afterwards you say "Jesus, even the sound design was great!". And I'm someone who couldn't care less about the sound design in films generally.
"One of the greatest films ever made? Without a shadow of a doubt"
And we're not talking about aspects of film that are ok and just serviceable. Nothing is 'just ok' about this film. Everything is plotted down and designed up to the max. In an effort to achieve quality, 'Se7en' has created a world where it's hard to pick out anything as fake or as a rushed job just to get the film made. The grime of the streets practically drips out of the frame. You can almost feel the downpour of rain on your face. The harsh, screeching sound of the city will follow your every step for days.
You could take any frame from this film and hang it up as a work of art.
The plot - well we all know the plot - serial killer inflicting seven deadly sins on 'sinners' across the city much to the disgust and increasing bewilderment of retiring detective Somerset (Freeman) and his hot-headed replacement Mills (Pitt).
So what's so good about 'Se7en' then? Everything. Fincher's camera-work is superb, prowling and peering into every dark nook and granny, getting right into the gory details of the murders without lingering too long to turn off the audience. Instead his glimpses of the corpses just leaves the audience wondering "what the hell was that I just saw?" to draw them in. And there's none of Finchers flashy, swooping camera moves here (think of the flying through the key-hole shots of 'Panic Room') to distract us. His work here is slow and relentless in the way it grabs the audience by the throat and pulls them into the darkest corners of the human mind.
The look of the film. The cinematography simply cannot be matched here. Almost relentlessly gloomy and dirty until the final 20 minutes set in glaring, harsh sunlight it's been ripped off countless times since. But none of its cheap imitations have ever looked as real as this city does. This truly looks like the nasty part of town you just don't dare go down even during the day. Nothing about it cries out 'movie set!'. It's like an ancestor to the city in 'Blade Runner'.
The script. By God, the script's smart. Characters are perfectly developed and matched, no-one acts out of character just to serve the plot and it's paced perfectly. It even gets away with the killer giving himself up twenty minutes before the end, and still coming up with a climax to beat all climaxes. Throw in references to Dante, the Bible and the Marquis De Sade without drowning the audience in a 'I'm so clever' approach and you have a script that should be studied and talked about...forever.
The acting. We all know that Morgan Freeman is regarded in a God-like status by any sensible person. For two reasons mainly: 'The Shawshank Redemption' and this. He's never been as good again and to be frank, has been living off this role ever since. He's superb, underplaying to perfection as a once optimistic man, beaten into down-beat cynicism by the filth of the world around him. You know to get worried when he says he hasn't seen anything like this because you get the impression that he has seen a lot of nasty things in the world. The saddest thing about Somerset? He can't quite give up hope for the world and its inhabtitants.
People generally dis-regard Brad Pitt, but he's criminally underrated in general, and in particular here. Put it this way, imagine Tom Cruise in the role and think how less effective 'Se7en' would be without Pitt. Pitt drops any pretence of a pretty-boy actor and gives a raw and frustrated performance.
And Spacey...keep your Hannibal Lecters and Henrys, because John Doe is the scariest serial killer ever produced. And you never even see him kill anyone. Instead, his soft reasoning tones as he matter-of-factly explains away his crimes leaves you a) utterley terrified and b) almost convinced he's right. Spacey is served up some great script-lines and he nails them all without ever going over the top.
These 3 performances alone should have all gained Oscar nominations.
And lastly...it's all in the details. So much is left up to the audiences imagination which is why it's just so damn scary. Conversations detailing the murders, photos of the corpses or weapons used tossed casually on a desk, sounds that come from nowhere and just freak you out, the insanely tidy hand-writing in John Does diary, the objects in Doe's apartment covered in dirt and grease just to chill the bone, air fresheners hanging from the ceiling...the devil's in the details people.
Like I say, this film is practically a work of art. And the climax? Well we all know what's in the box now...but it still shocks the almighty hell out of you.Keep your 'Manhunters' and 'Silence of the Lambs'. They're just haunted-house rides at a fairground. For a real, terrifying trip into the deepest, darkest recesses of the human soul, and glimpse of what horror really is, just stick 'Se7en' into your dvd player. And remember: this isn't going to have a happy ending...
link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1005&reviewer=293
originally posted: 03/18/04 22:43:00