movie film review | chris tookey

Seven / Se7en

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  Seven  / Se7en Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
8.57 /10
Mills ............... Brad Pitt , Somerset ............ Morgan Freeman (WINNER OF CRITICS' CIRCLE AWARD, BEST ACTOR)
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Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker

Released: 1995
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 125

An elderly, orderly detective seven days away from retirement (Morgan Freeman, pictured) is forced to work with a loutish younger cop new to the city and anxious to make his name (Brad Pitt). Though they don't get on, they have to trail a serial killer who seems to be on a personal crusade against the Seven Deadly Sins, beginning with Gluttony and Sloth.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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With two corpses down and five to go, this may sound like the neat but contrived plotting of English detective fiction, but the treatment here is much more up-to-date and horrific - imagine an autopsy from a Patricia Cornwell novel, filmed by Quentin Tarantino.

This is an elegantly constructed film full of disgusting images, very gruesome in its portrayal of torture and depravity, and emphatically not for the squeamish. Oddly enough, it is not violent by the standards of modern thrillers; we see hardly any of the crimes being committed. The images are more of their shocking aftermath. This is not one of those Hollywood films which glorify violence - rather the reverse, since it concentrates on its grisly effects.

Andrew Kevin Walker's first screenplay is never corny or predictable, or clever-clever. The film delivers loads of suspense and some extremely nasty shocks. The scene where a "corpse" comes suddenly to life can rank alongside that moment when the dwarf turns round in Don't Look Now.

The film is lifted further towards greatness by exceptional performances from Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. The script helps by making them constantly surprising, and gradually feeding us new insights and astute little observations about them.

The killer is just as convincingly played by another fine actor, and the film succeeds - as have so many of the best horror films, like Psycho - in taking us inside his mind, and persuading us that his acts have a kind of single-minded logic.

Visually, Seven is a tour de force - the finest exercise in film noir style since Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Director David Fincher, whose only previous feature was the not noticeably promising Alien 3, shoots his fictitious American city in washed-out shades of brown and grey which make it look like a decomposing corpse, teeming with human maggots.

One traditional element of film noir - the femme fatale - is apparently missing; but in her place, there is Gwyneth Paltrow as Brad Pitt's sweet wife trying to make peace between the two cops and agonizing over whether the city is a proper place for her unborn child. As she wonders whether or not to have an abortion, the film gently points out that the city is helping to turn even this nice young woman into a potential killer.

This is a moral film which gazes disgustedly into the abyss. Its vision of the city owes something to Chinatown, but is essentially of a modern Dante's Inferno (allusions to which abound), where society no longer prizes "civilisation", experience, morality or literacy (even the most civilised character in the film, played by Freeman, doesn't know the difference between "contrition" and "attrition").

After a decade in which America's respectable people have increasingly abandoned the cities to drug-dealers, pimps and an under-educated, lawless underclass, Seven asks pertinent questions about the consequences of such apathy. In an understandable concession to political correctness, the film-makers have chosen Morgan Freeman, a black actor, to voice those concerns.

The central question which the film poses is about how to react to the New Barbarism. Is it preferable to shrug and walk away, as Freeman initially intends, or stand and fight it - as the less civilised Pitt feels impelled to do, and as the killer also does in his own, much sicker way?

The visual style is contrived - this is another noir city where it never rains but it pours, and there are times when any real cop would simply turn on a few lights and ruin the atmosphere; but this is a terrific thriller, wonderfully directed, written, acted and produced with an excellent, atmospheric score by Howard Shore.

It succeeds because it creates a world that is a distorted but recognisable version of our own. It is not an easy film to watch. A few may walk out of it in disgust, and others will call it bosh, but really it's a modern equivalent to Hieronymus Bosch - unpleasant, over-the-top, riveting.

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