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The Fincher Files: Se7en (1995) Review

Se7en (1995) - credit: New Line Cinema

IMDB Link: Seven (1995)
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey

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

I am disappointed that it took me 22 years to finally watch this film, and the other films in Fincher’s filmography that I am yet to see. I have no excuse for it, as I know I would love his films. I adore The Social Network and Zodiac, and I have heard nothing but praise for the likes of Se7en. This may be my most anticipated film of the marathon, but I am glad to say that it didn’t disappoint me at all.

What Fincher excels at is telling stories, and not one-plot ones. He has these fascinating bases to start off at, for example following a serial killer who murders based on the seven deadly sins. That in itself is fascinating and could hold a film by itself. However, Fincher goes well beyond that to create more than that simple plot. He builds a world that is complex, with numerous stories interweaved and characters that develop throughout.

The performances here, unsurprisingly, are phenomenal. I am not sure if anyone else has given better year-to-year performances than Morgan Freeman. In 1994, he gave his Oscar-nominated performance in The Shawshank Redemption and then he followed it up in 1995 with this, which may just somehow be the better of the two performance. This is also my favourite performance given by Brad Pitt, who is sensational all the way through and building up to that gut-punch finale.

If any other director was handling this subject matter, the focus would be building up the character development of the serial killer. That is not the case here, when Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of the killer is only shown fully by the end of the story. This is a story about how the murders impact the cops working on the case, and how they approach working on something this extreme. The murders are brutal and bloody, and way beyond anything that would be seen on a daily basis. It is clear they have a toll on the detectives, particularly Detective Mills (played by Pitt) and his breakdowns and outbursts of anger feel completely warranted and earned by the script and visuals.

I did go into this film knowing what the ending was, which was hard to ignore watching the rest of the film and seeing the characters all interact with each other, waiting for the final moments to happen. However, it did not even matter that it was spoiled because this may be one of the best endings of a film that I have ever seen. There was still so much suspense, heartbreak and anger that came off the screen and all of it felt earned. The anticipation of the will he, won’t he and being completely satisfied with not only what Detective Mills chose to do, but how he acted in that situation just felt perfect for the story.

Perhaps, in a second watch, this could be boosted to a perfect score. All of the elements are there, the pacing is spot on and the story is completely gripping. The thing that is currently stopping me from immediately claiming this to be a “perfect” film is how much this movie wants to move forward. It rarely stops to look back, and some people will love that. It certainly helps with the pacing, but it feels like the film at times doesn’t fully care about some of the previous murders and instead just trying to look forward and move on. This is all down to personal choice, and it may not impact me as much in a second watch. It is, however, worth noting at least.

To conclude, Fincher has been perfecting his craft over the past 25 years leading up to Mank, but Se7en is already one hell of a film for what is his second directorial piece in his filmography. Immediately, there is a distinct voice throughout his works, a clear idea of how the film would be told, and a strong story that does not go the way that is expected when it begins. If you have been like me and haven’t sat down to watch Se7en, rectify that now. I’m certainly glad that I have.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

To read more of the pieces during The Fincher Files, click here.

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