Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, David Fincher’s Se7en is a scary movie. Twisted and gory, but never gratuitous, the 1995 film follows two detectives, David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) as they try to track down a serial killer who is using the seven deadly sins as the theme for his murders.

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker pens one of the best scripts you’ll ever see unfold on screen, urged on by Fincher’s meticulous organization and vision. Garnishing the perfectly tailored plot, Walker keeps the dialogue loose enough so the banter feels casual. Each character has his or her own specific way of speaking that flows so well with everyone else, making their individual turn of phrase so much more dynamic than just another cinematic element.

The chemistry between Pitt and Freeman is superb, even though Freeman overshadows his costar and gives perhaps the best performance of his career as the retiring detective. The veteran is a master of portraying likable, if not lovable, characters with an edge, and Somerset is no different. Viewing the world in an incisive, yet somewhat skewed perspective, he balances his costar’s youthful glow with his own disillusioned hardness, yet with a slight glimmer of hope still left behind his eyes.

Se7en plays as a neo-noir of sorts, with Fincher doing a fantastic job making New York City look seedy and disgusting in a way that was so ubiquitous in the decade prior, yet hardly tapped into like this in the alt-’90s. The director keeps the themes kinetic and has so many things to say, and is successful at connecting all of them, at least tangentially, to one another, such as in the way he shows us the poor and unappealing living conditions of detectives compared to how much tireless and thankless work they do. It’s only one of the more subtle examples living underneath the story, but even this can find a way to connect to our twisted villain’s extremely misguided objective.

There are so many moving parts and so much to unwrap. When we finally come face to face with the actual killer, it’s obvious that he’s a complete psychopath, yet Fincher and Walker still make us see that he kinda has a point—a feat that’s rare in film, especially with someone this despicable.

Se7en is not easy to watch. In fact, in their contemporaneous reviews, both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert suggested the film should have been rated NC-17. By 1995’s standards, they’re probably right. Similarly, the NC-17-rated Showgirls is mild compared to today’s raunchy fare.

About the Author: Ethan Brehm

Ethan Brehm

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