David Fincher's stunning directorial debut about a psychopath who uses the seven deadly sins as a model for his grotesque murders


D: David Fincher (1996); with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, Kevin Spacey, R. Lee Ermey.

The rebirth of the monster as one of us arguably took place in 1960 when two masterpieces -- Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho -- were released, influencing countless films that focus on how psychopaths operate, what makes them tick, and, most importantly, kill. Many have faltered because of deeply flawed storylines (Natural Born Killers) or just pointless displays of violence (Man Bites Dog). However, others have yielded some of the most brilliant filmmaking of the past few decades and sure to become classics. Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs comes to mind, as does Se7en, David Fincher's stunning film about a psychopath who uses the seven deadly sins as a model for his grotesque murders. Following his progress are detectives William Somerset (Freeman), who plans on retiring at the end of the week, and his replacement, the young, brusque detective David Mills (Pitt), who shoots his mouth off at every given opportunity. Together they trace their way through the mean streets of an unnamed Gotham that suspiciously resembles New York City, moving from clue to clue with methodical grace, a fascinating look at how investigators do their jobs. The focus on these two characters allows both actors to play off each other, a wonderful parallel between the young and old. Freeman -- who has a knack for making the audience hinge on every prophetic, baritoned word he says -- is cool and brilliant as usual and Pitt's performance counters perfectly, covering a whole gamut of emotions or, on closer inspection, deadly sins. Fincher paints a captivating portrait of the dark side of man, with shots that have the sleekness of his prior Nike ads, setting up the grim mood for the film beautifully. While there are a few technical flaws -- the overuse of flashlights and the unexplained desert just a short drive outside of New York City -- they seem rather unimportant by the brutal climax, thrilling for being the polar opposite of a classic, upbeat Hollywood ending. Se7en manages to capture a realism few films can, the honesty and nastiness of our world in more shades of gray than most of us like to examine. It resonates long after the final gunshot.

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