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SEVEN (PLATINUM SERIES)

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Kevin Spacey
Director: David Fincher
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English DTS ES 5.1
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 127 Minutes
Release Date: December 19, 2000

Film ****

As far as the serial killer genre is concerned, I truly believe that no other movie of this kind will surpass the utter brilliance and unique disturbing quality of David Fincherís groundbreaking movie Se7en. I remember my first viewing of the movie as if it were yesterday. I saw it on its opening weekend in September of 1995. I sat in the theater, hooked for every single minute of the film, and never before had a twisted ending stuck with me, and haunted me for such a long period. Another film that had a similar effect on me was 1999ís Arlington Road, but Se7en was by far the first film to ever truly creep me out, with sick unexpected twist that I found even more virtually shocking than the one in The Usual Suspects, which was released around the same time as this film. This was David Fincherís second directorial effort, following his debut in 1992 with the flawed but visually striking Alien 3. With this film, Fincher had officially proven himself has a true cinematic visionary with a uniquely dark vision that would also find itself in his next two films, The Game and his provocative masterpiece, Fight Club. But Se7en has earned its place as a landmark thriller, and as one of the more daring mainstream motion pictures ever made.

The movie does begin like most police thrillers do, with the pairing of two police detectives. Veteran cop William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is paired with new arrival David Mills (Brad Pitt). Somerset is a wise, super intelligent detective on what is supposed to be his last week on the force before retirement, and Mills is a young hothead looking for his big break case. The two different cops soon find themselves in the middle of a series of brutal killings that are each related to one of the seven deadly sins. The first of the victims discovered is an obese man who seems to have been force to eat until death established itself, which would relate to a sin of gluttony. The second victim is a wealthy defense lawyer, who is found mutilated in his office, where the word greed is spray painted on the floor. I wonít go into the details of the other victims because they are simply too grisly for description, plus Iíd be ruining some brilliant moments. I will say, though, that the other murders are based upon the other five sins; sloth, pride, lust, envy, and wrath. The screenwriter, Andrew Kevin Walker, is a genius in my opinion for creating a truly creepy backdrop for a murder mystery. The seven deadly sins, to the best of my knowledge, have never been tackled in the movies before, let alone a murder mystery. Walkerís other writing credits include Sleepy Hollow and the equally disturbing Eight Millimeter, which is proof that Walker is a gifted in telling stories that can scare the pants of its viewers.

Se7en is the epitome of everything that I as a critic, and a filmgoer, look for in a film of this nature. The movieís visual look is a key in generating a dark and creepy style that makes the setting perfect for a suspense thriller. In addition to Mills and Somerset investigating each killing, which offers its own element of tension with each murder scene, there are two set pieces in Se7en that draw the viewer in completely. One is a highly effective foot chase sequence where the detectives pursue the killer through the corridors of an apartment building, leading to a pursuit on a rooftop, and ending in an abandoned alley. The second set piece is in the filmís climax, in which the killer leads the two detectives to a site in the desert. If the build-up and execution of this sequence and the ending donít give you the chills, I donít think anything will.

*WARNING--spoiler ahead.  Skip the next paragraph if you haven't seen Se7en.

At the time of the filmís release, the identity of the actor portraying the killer was kept secret. I had no idea that an actor that wasnít entirely an unknown would play the role. Plus, I figured that if it was a big name actor playing the part, his name wouldíve been mentioned in the opening credits, but it wasnít, so I was expecting to see an either an unknown or an up and coming actor to turn up as the killer. By now, everyone probably knows that it is Kevin Spacey who lends his brilliance to the role of a morally complicated psychopath. Spacey, at the time, was also receiving much deserved critical acclaim for his performance in The Usual Suspects. It is in this film, though, where the actor, who only appears in the films last thirty minutes, delivers perhaps his most striking performance ever, with some of the best dialogue Iím sure heís ever had the pleasure of delivering.

All of the performances are of true top-notch quality. Freeman, who I donít think could ever give a bad performance, is excellent as usual, in a performance that ranks right up there his terrific work in The Shawshank Redemption. As for Brad Pitt, this is the movie where I instantly became a fan of his, because he was playing a character completely opposite of the romantic lead he was so used to playing at the time. Mills isnít completely likable, and at times seems a little self-centered and egotistical, but Pitt is completely believable in the part. Both lead actors bring a certain level of depth and emotion that you donít normally find in detectives in the movies.

Se7en will forever hold a place in my heart as one of the most effective movies ever made. Each time I watch it, I am left with the same eerie feeling I had when I first saw it. Few films can do this, even good films can help re-create a certain impact the way that this movie can, and for that, Se7en should earn a place in film history.

Video ****

I was long waiting for the day that New Line would re-issue this film, and they have done so magnificently. You may recall the earlier DVD issuing of Se7en, which was released when New Line was first coming into the DVD market. The transfer wasnít that bad looking at all, except that the disc was double-sided just for the purpose of the filmís running time, which was only a measly 127 minutes. Plus, the presentation was not anamorphically enhanced. This time around, New Line has fixed the mishaps of the earlier version and has delivered a visually knockout of a video transfer. The picture is now enhanced for widescreen TVs, and is as crisp, clear, and glowing of a video image as one could possibly hope for. I would advise that when you do watch the movie, watch it in the dark, because it does help enhance the overall impact of the film.

Audio ****

In the first issuing of Se7en, New Line had already done a wonderful job of perfection on the audio transfer, so as far as the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is concerned, thereís no significant difference, but the audio quality is still of amazing quality. There are two added audio tracks on this edition, an English DTS 6.1 track, as well as an English Dolby Surround track.

Features ****

Fox paved the way for the use of the 2-Disc set, which New Line carried into their own with a number of their Platinum Series releases, including Magnolia and Boogie Nights. Their re-issuing of Se7en is by far New Lineís most landmark release to date as far as packaging and extras go. The packaging is truly the best of any disc Iíve seen, replicating the serial killerís composition notebook. Disc 1 includes four feature commentaries, including a wonderful one by David Fincher, Brad Pitt, and Morgan Freeman, as well as one by Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker. Disc 2 is very much loaded, including a detailed look into the creating of the movieís opening credit sequence, a collection of deleted scenes and extended takes, original promotional materials, as well as several production galleries, and some DVD-ROM content. New Line has now made their mark as one of the premiere DVD distributors.

Summary:

Se7en is as gripping and scary as movies get. A rare murder mystery that is laced with thought-provoking philosophy on the sins that are committed in daily life, and if the sinners are truly worthy of murder. Caution: not for the squeamish. Please watch with care!