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aka - Se7en
USA 1995
Directed by
David Fincher
127 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Playing at times like a gory version of The Da Vinci Code, David Fincher's hugely popular but considerably over-rated thriller masks its rather thin substance with an abundance and at times, an excess, of style.

Morgan Freeman plays Det. William Somerset, a homicide detective who, in a commonly used scenario, is just one week from retirement. After 32 years of seeing humanity at its worst he is about to be replaced by young would-be hotshot David Mills (Brad Pitt). But on the first day of their week-long (that is seven days) handover they investigate a gruesome murder which turns out to be the first in series of executions based on the seven deadly sins.

That Se7en is both smart and dumb no doubt explains its widespread appeal.  The dumb aspects include the familiar buddy opposition between Pitt’s gum-chewing, idealistically gung-ho rookie detective (Pitt in one of his more standard turns) and Freeman’s imperturbable, world-weary eminence gris (is Freeman ever anything else?), an Abbott and Costello pairing for which the murders are a kind of binding force. Then there's the wheedling sentimentality of Mill’s pretty wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow in one of her typically annoying performances) and some large plot holes that only a deus ex machina could fill. The smart aspects are that, bar a rather too convenient ending (the sins of wrath and pride are less than well exemplified), the cat-and-mouse game with the killer being the cat is cleverly spun out.

The real appeal of the film is, however, the result of Fincher’s slick direction aided by Darius Khondji's cinematography and the grisly special effects by Rob Bottin. At times, such as when he forces kinetically-charged group action sequences involving SWAT teams and helicopters, FIncher overplays his hand but by-and-large he maintains a noirishly dystopian atmosphere, cleverly making what is at heart a fairly conventional serial killer thriller appear to be something more than it is.




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