Se7en (1995)
February 6, 2018 9:19 PM - Subscribe

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.

Rolling Stone: Seven is another crime story that leans heavily on atmosphere. But this nerve-jangling thriller, evocatively shot by Darius Khondji, is no period piece. Set in an unnamed modern city deluged by rain and eroded by decay, the film stars Brad Pitt as David Mills, a can-do detective just in from the sticks with his wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), to replace Lt. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), a soul-sick cop ready to pack it in after 34 years of chasing scumbags.

NYTimes: In case these crimes, however disgustingly rendered, are not formulaic enough, "Seven" also throws in two familiar detective types: the brash new guy (Brad Pitt), and the steady-handed veteran who is on the verge of leaving the force (Morgan Freeman). The new guy has a loving, patient wife (Gwyneth Paltrow), and so the film treats her in ways you wouldn't treat a dog. As for the veteran, if you guess that he has only one week to go before retirement, naturally you're right.

Roger Ebert: This is as formulaic as an Agatha Christie whodunit. But "Seven" takes place not in the genteel world of country house murders, but in the lives of two cops, one who thinks he has seen it all and the other who has no idea what he is about to see. Nor is the film about detection; the killer turns himself in when the film still has half an hour to go. It's more of a character study, in which the older man becomes a scholar of depravity and the younger experiences it in an pitiable and personal way. A hopeful quote by Hemingway was added as a voice-over after preview audiences found the original ending too horrifying. But the original ending is still there, and the quote plays more like a bleak joke. The film should end with Freeman's "see you around." After the devastating conclusion, the Hemingway line is small consolation.

Se7en Revisited: The Films of David Fincher

Se7en Ending: What is and could have been in the box.


What's in the box?

Art of the Scene: The Box
posted by MoonOrb (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
No comments? For the record, I haven't seen this in ages and I always thought it was really good. You should see it! That's all I got right now.
posted by tel3path at 9:04 AM on February 7, 2018

I was THIS CLOSE to rewatching this for the first time in ages recently. Then Spacey happened. Not sure I can watch it ever again.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:44 AM on February 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Same, CheesesOfBrazil. Same.
posted by knownassociate at 11:29 AM on February 7, 2018

Mrs. Example and I saw this on one of our very first dates. (Two of the others: Twelve Monkeys and The Usual Suspects. What an amazing year for movies.) We had kind of a dark theme going, I guess, but we're still together twenty years and more later, so I guess it worked for us.

Interestingly, it wasn't Seven but Twelve Monkeys that had me lying there in bed the next morning, staring at the ceiling and saying "Wow...that was bleak".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

One of my favourites. The mood of the film felt like the mood of my brain at that stage in my life so I guess it just "clicked" with me. I still think it's a masterpiece but doubt I could bring myself to watch it again post-Spacey.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:56 PM on February 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh and the soundtrack. Spectacular!
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:57 PM on February 7, 2018

I loved the weather in the movie. Noir without the neon (well, except in the fetish club).

Pitt playing with the two dogs in the horrible apartment - juxtaposed against the horribleness of the apartment was a really humanizing touch.

One nitpick, though; I cringed when Freeman's character was throwing his (no shit, actual) switchblade knife at the dart board - knife steel is tempered and will shatter sooner or later when used as a throwing knife.
posted by porpoise at 3:27 PM on February 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe he buys a new one every year.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:54 PM on February 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

To me the title of this movie will always be pronounced "Sesevenen."
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 6:31 AM on February 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

I saw this when it came out and remember not liking it much. I do wonder if, had I seen it a few years later, I might have liked it more -- but I had just seen Twelve Monkeys (in which I had really liked Brad PItt, but he seemed to me to be essentially recycling his performance from that in this movie), and had also recently encountered a few fictional and ridiculous uses of the 'head-in-a-box' idea that made it impossible for me to take that particular twist seriously. I also wasn't sure that the whole 'seven deadly sins' theme entirely held together.

That one part of the scene with the victim who was supposed to stand in for sloth (_you_ know which part) has definitely stuck with me, though.
posted by jwgh at 7:09 AM on February 8, 2018

It struck me after watching, the first time i saw it, that we see very few acts of violence in this film. It feels like there's way more, but - what you're thinking of are the aftermaths of violence. We don't see the john with the razor dildo actually committing the act, we hear him talk about it. We don't see the force-feeding the man that much spaghetti, we only see the aftermath. The only actual murder we see onscreen is Brad Pitt pulling the trigger and shooting "John Doe".

I'm not sure what that says, but it struck me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on February 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

The Marquis de Sade.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:18 PM on February 8, 2018

I agree with Empress C above; the fact that the violence is mostly what happened beforehand while we (and Somerset and Mills) are coming along afterwards, picking up diamonds on the desert island, is part of the appeal. But only part of it for me. In 1995 I was at the height of my cinema geek youth. I had just recently left the art house cinema I had managed and moved to The Big City where there were a lot more movies to see.

I think I caught a matinee in the first week, knowing very little about it. What I did know was unpromising: sure, we had the old reliable Freeman coming off a string of pretty great flicks like Glory and Unforgiven and a few crowdpleasers like The Shawshank Redemption, but there was this Pitt guy who did niche things like Johnny Suede and Cool World and was best known for being the second most grievously miscast guy in Interview with the Vampire. The director had done a weirdly off-kilter Alien sequel a few years earlier and nothing else but a bunch of Paula Abdul videos. I had never heard of the writer. What little I could glean was that it was generic mismatched buddy cops hunting a high-concept serial killer. My best expectations were somewhere along the lines of Running Scared meets The January Man.

What I got was a lot more than that. There was every reason for this to be an absolutely forgettable movie that you would see and then pick off the shelf at the video store two years later and struggle to remember if you had seen it. Instead we got this disorienting and harrowing experience which left some viewers swearing they’d never watch it again and others amazed by what they had been through.

Insofar as I have an idea what art is, it is the ability to produce a particular set of emotions in the audience. Seven does it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:14 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I feel like the success of this movie - more than Silence of the Lambs - really preceded? led? To the explosion in super shitty serial killers movies and shows that we've been wading through in the twenty odd years since it came out.

I don't know if I'd say it's cause and effect, exactly, but it's such an unpleasant trend. Look at Law and Order - which was mostly a police procedural - when this movie released, and the circus show it became hence.

Fincher I think is such a great stylist, he's often able to fool us into thinking there's a little something more there, than there actually is. I find him as a director a really interesting counterpoint to Soderbergh, whose films are like quite personal and filled with idiosyncratic concerns.
posted by smoke at 5:39 PM on February 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was regarded as a horror-lite movie when it came out, wasn't it? I know we thought of it like that. Also I don't think I ever did get it straight in my head which sin was which murder, other than the two obvious ones and rewatching it recently did not help sort that out for me.
posted by fshgrl at 6:37 PM on February 11, 2018

Also I don't think I ever did get it straight in my head which sin was which murder, other than the two obvious ones and rewatching it recently did not help sort that out for me.

Gluttony is the first: the morbidly obese man we see slumped over at his table.

Greed is the lawyer forced to mutilate himself.

Sloth is the criminal (and false lead) confined to his bed for a year.

Lust is the prostitute killed by the strap-on device.

Pride is the beautiful woman whose face is mutilated and who is given the choice of suicide or living with a ruined face.

Envy is Tracey.

Wrath is John Doe.

I bought the script years ago and just read it this afternoon. I’d say 98% of what was on the page made it to the screen; the scripted ending is slightly bleaker (Somerset’s closing words from Hemingway are presented merely as an epigram on screen, and without Somerset’s qualification about agreeing with part of it — that is as bleak an irony as any major studio release has ever gone for).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:23 PM on September 7, 2023

Or, depending on your interpretation, Envy is Doe and Wrath is Mills himself, left alive but with a Fate Worse Than Death.

Incidentally, scheduled for release in November is The Killer, which reunites the director and writer of Seven, David Fincher and Andrew Kevin Walker.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:32 AM on September 8, 2023

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