By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
Rewatching this film with a friend who is inexperienced with the twists and turns that David Fincher and Andrew Walker’s Se7en provides. Arriving in theaters in the late September of 1995, this underappreciated jewel of filmmaking appears with a mysteriously sinister and at times gruesome narrative. Taking place in an unnamed location, veteran Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and his rookie partner Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) embark on a case that emerges into a hunt for a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his configuration for his immoral crimes.
With an average response from the critics, being claimed as reliant on its murderous imagery and a screenplay based in improbability, and the audiences not being too immersed with the ideas it presents with it being the third slowest film to climb to a hundred million dollars at the U.S box-office. With even Ebert himself claiming the ending to be unworthy of its enticing first two acts, how can I claim this film to be one of the finest movies ever placed on the big screen for our eyes to witness? How about we start with the fact that after a second viewing Ebert went back to provide a plot synopsis with a perfect four-star rating at the top of his summary. Going on to explain how the ambiguity of the ending almost elevates the film to an almost untouchable region, joining the likes of other classics that left us immersed in their aura.
Opening with an introduction by parts of sorts, with the camera glancing and peeking at Somerset’s morning habits and giving us a front-seat tour of who the character is. With glimpsed view of his badge, gun, pen, and switchblade, we learn various details of this character. What he does, how he does it, his age displayed with an old weapon like a switchblade. Moving along to his interaction with another detective at a crime scene, questioning what seems to be a simple case. Almost digging for an extensive set of reasoning for the events to have taken place. As if every crime is not simple, instead they are always showered in complexities and riddles. We then are introduced to the new rookie on the block Dt. Mills, who arrives almost bewildered as if he knows he’s intruded on an argument between close friends. After they introduce themselves, Somerset only seems to have one particular question rising to the tip of his tongue. Asking, “Why here?” with a baffled response from Mills of, “I don’t follow.”
Somerset goes on to drive the question home of how this insistence of being reassigned to this city is almost perpetuating to him. The confrontation ensues to the point of Mills explaining how he’s worked homicide for many years, but Somerset interjects how he hasn’t worked here before and to remember that for the next seven days of apprenticeship if you will. We then are transitioned to a medium shot of Somerset lying in bed with a metronome at his bedside introducing us to his insomnia that we can infer developed due to his many years of serving and protecting. This intelligently crafted 4 minutes and eleven seconds of immaculate filmmaking sheds light on the brilliant artistry of David Fincher as a director. We are not only introduced to our main characters, but we are introduced to our tone, setting, and third character of the city itself. A city that is unnamed throughout the entirety of the 127 minute run time of this horrific crime drama.
We are constantly provided suggestions of the grim clouds and heinous events that take place in this city on a regular basis. We also are introduced to this straightforward yet arduous and intricate tone. A tone than develops an immersive atmosphere that works in seamless coordination with the mesmeric imagery of Darius Khondji’s exquisite cinematography. The characters are presented to us as well, with a glimpse at the suave, well-mannered, and filled with the laconic dialogue of the brilliant Morgan Freeman. And, his opposition of a brash, one-dimensional, and perhaps restrained partner portrayed by the dynamic Brad Pitt. The film continues to shock and awe with an engrossing screenplay by Andrew Walker, filled with an entree of every film enthusiasts delights. Such as plot twists, surprise endings, character arcs, smooth plot transitions, and inspiring introductions. With a surprise reveal of an actor and character that I will refuse to name for anyone who has not witnessed the awesome art of filmmaking that is presented to us.
From that point on he envelops the entire screen for the remainder of the runtime. The character entices us to the point of intriguement and at times comprehension, grasping the screen with a firm hold of intensity. We then lean all the way in for the enclosure of an ending that not only digs itself deep into our emotional fortitudes for the characters themselves but lingers as a reminder of action for our everyday lives. Exemplifying itself as one of the most iconic endings in cinematic history, it truly blends into the distinguished filmmaking of the first two acts before with a step of breathtaking bravery to present an ending that may leave the audience dissatisfied if they haven’t left already from the nightmarish imagery.
With a film furnished with examples of impeccable direction and editing working in tandem with a marvelously constructed screenplay by Andrew Walker, Se7en enters itself into the conversation for one of the leading examples of what filmmaking is with a satisfyingly traumatizing ending to allow the film to linger long after the fade of the credits. Se7en is a movie that displays how viewpoints and ideologies can not only control an individual but an entire society as well. Reminding us that all of us see things we find atrocious or disagreeable but the response of apathy is not recommended but as Somerset describes “Sympathized.” From beginning to end Se7en transfers us to a dark, menacing, and morbid place that is concentrated on a battle between the articulated lunacy of a serial killer and the clashing personalities of the veteran with his recruit. Presenting us one of the most remarkable stories ever brought to our local screens for us to witness as audience members and admirers of cinema.