Monday, 15 June 2015

Cameron's Movie Reviews: Se7en

I'm a fan of 90s crime films, and David Fincher's Se7en is no exception. The gritty story, the flawed characters and the brutal climax all fit together like a beautifully gory jigsaw puzzle. So sit back, relax, put away the spaghetti and let's look over this post-modern classic together.

For those unfamiliar with the story, let me fill you in. In an unspecified city, two detectives, Mills (played by Brad Pitt) and Somerset (played by Morgan Freeman) work on a case that involves a serial killer who murders his victims in accordance with the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed (I always call it 'avarice' but OK), sloth, lust, pride, envy and wrath. Throughout the film, Mills is portrayed as this young, go-get-em sort of guy, whilst Somerset is soon to retire, and at first dismisses the case as he doesn't want something of this magnitude to be his last hour. The two leads work well, although the script certainly helps them along the way. Andrew Kevin Walker does a marvellous job on characterisation, and makes us like these characters, even if they are flawed. For example, Mills can often be aggressive, but it's understandable due to his being new in town, his wife being unhappy and the case to deal with, so we often feel sympathy for him. Somerset seems weak and tired, but his stories about the old days are enough to make us understand why he's been worn down by the job (He abandoned bringing up a child in the hellhole of a city we find ourselves in).

As for the supporting cast, they do their fair share. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the role of Mills' pregnant wife. Now, normally I'm not a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow. I just think she's a bit bland and it feels like she plays the same role over and over and over and OVER AND OVER... you get the point. You know, that nice, friendly character who still manages to keep fairly headstrong (People who have seen this film or know how it ends will find the word 'headstrong' fairly ironic). However, in this flick, she does OK. Her character has a sense of vulnerability about her, which is far removed from Pepper Potts. Maybe it's because this was one of her earlier movies and she hadn't been typecast yet. The bad guy in this tale is given the name John Doe who lives up to his name in the fact that he is nearly untraceable, partly due to the fact that he cuts his fingerprints off so he leaves no clues. He's played by King of the 90s Kevin Spacey, who once again plays a not very nice character. I swear, is L.A. Confidential the only time he doesn't play a bad guy or an otherwise despicable character? Aside from this film, check out the other vile villainous roles he's landed:

  • American Beauty as a guy who wants to have sex with his teenage daughter's best friend. OK... that sort of thing's frowned upon these days, Kev.
  • Superman Returns as Lex Luthor. Need I say more?
  • House of Cards as a ruthless politician. Actually, you could just take out the 'ruthless' from that phrase and it would sound just as scheming.
Spacey does a good job with the role and despite not having much screen time still cranks up the air of menace that had hung around this film like a bad smell. In particular, I like his laconic delivery, which makes us feel as if this character truly isn't sorry for what he's done. This is best seen at the end when he and the two detectives are driving out to the desert to find tow more bodies, bodies that all too soon will be shown.

The first thing you notice about this film is that it's bleak. Not just bleak in the sense of story, but bleak in the sense of cinematography. The whole film uses very muted colours, something I noticed from the very first shot. This is in keeping with the film's dark tone, and it looks like a work of art in a way. I see films as art. Sure, you don't paint them but they're art. This is a good word to describe this film: art. It's a serious film, unlike Fincher's previous works such as Alien 3. There are two things this film puts in my head. One is Batman: The Long Halloween, my personal favourite story to boast the Caped Crusader. This is due in part to the theme: a serial killer, and the rest is down to it's look. The Long Halloween uses quite dull tones as well in Tim Sale's artwork. In fact, it seems like a comic book. The look, the plot, the cast. It all seems like I'm reading a comic book. The other thing this film reminds me of is film noir. I won't go into details about what film noir is but one of the features of the genre is long shadows, which there are plenty of in this film. There's one chase scene in particular that puts the cast in shadow so we can't see them too clearly, adding to the theme of the unknown. The inclusion of flawed characters is also a textbook noir device, making this in a way, a neo-noir.

This is not a film you want to show your kids. It's a grim film, but we don't see any of the murders taking place, which is just as well. Here is a list of all seven murders (SPOILER ALERT)

  • Gluttony: a quite clearly obese man is forced to eat his own body weight (in the form of tins of spaghetti) and is then kicked in the stomach which causes an internal rupture.
  • Greed: a lawyer is forced to cut off a piece of his own flesh and bleeds to death.
  • Sloth: a mentally ill man is tied up, has his hand cut off, kept alive on an IV who ends up biting his own tongue off.
  • Lust: a man is forced to attach a bladed sex toy to himself and then rape a prostitute with it until she dies.
  • Pride: a model is slashed in the face and gets a choice: ring for help with a phone (glued to her right hand) or kill herself with a bottle of pills (glued to her left).She chose the pills.
  • Envy: a woman's head is cut off out of envy.
  • Wrath: a man is shot in the head.
Now, I was a bit disappointed. I went into this thinking, this is going to be really gory but I'll love it. It wasn't really gory, but I still loved it. I might have liked to see some more gore, but with the deaths I just put up, it might be best to leave them be. In fact, it's better that we don't see them, as then we can only imagine the pain they went through.

The sound is of particular interest. The music choice is excellent. There's standard stuff like exciting music in a chase scene, mournful music in a sad scene. But then there's the titles sequence and credits sequence. Both use very industrial type music, such as the David Bowie song, The Heart's Filthy Lesson over the end credits. The suggest a harsh quality to this film and it confirms that this is not your average film. Also, you might get the feeling that you've bought Jamaica Inn by mistake, as half the sound in the first quarter is almost inaudible.

Favourite Quote: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part".

In conclusion, Se7en manages to be a terrific slice of grim cinema. Sure, it has its flaws, but they're minor flaws. Something I've heard people say is that the ending is too predictable. Yes, it is in a way, and it's nicely foreshadowed early on by Somerset: "This isn't going to have a happy ending". And even though it's a bit predictable, it's handled expertly by Fincher who builds up suspense in a way (dare I say it?) worthy of Hitchcock. It's a hard film to dislike, what with it's brutal story and likeable characters. So, next time you're stuck for what to watch, give Se7en a go. But make sure you eat before. Just don't eat spaghetti.

Overall Rating: 8/10

1 comment:

  1. Movies are the best way to see a story with the the so experienced actors nowadays
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