‘Se7en’ is designed with the avid crime fanatic in mind. David Fincher perfectly captures the enjoyment of coffee and crime. The film taps into the love of listening to police procedural lingo. ‘Se7en’ satisfies that compulsion to ponder perplexing puzzles; with stories as black as your brew.
Like many of Fincher’s works, the film has a very deliberate rhythm. Initially, it maintains a snappy pace. There is no preamble in the introduction; the New Line Cinema logo briefly flashes up and then you’re in.
We join Morgan Freeman’s Detective Somerset as he begins a busy day. Immediately we are thrown into a case, as he surveys the crime scene, he is bombarded with the chatter of his colleagues and the bustling city below.
We get a real feel for how frantic a police officer’s life is. Somerset and Brad Pitt’s Mills even reference how quickly their dynamic has progressed.
After a break-neck beginning, the pace slows, giving the audience some quality time with the characters. Fincher’s direction is very key to the creepy tone. His unusual camera angles turn mundane things into something that looks violent.
For instance, the red tape covering a door is sliced with a knife from the outside. The moment is shot from the other side of the door.
Some shots give a staged look to the crime scenes and locations. They are like sets that you can walk around in. This is perhaps an attempt to convey a sense of nihilistic futility. What is the point in society? It becomes a joke in the face of such monstrous violence.
A great piece of symbolism comes at the scene of the first murder. Mills shines his torch in a corner and cockroaches scuttle away from the beam. This signifies the secret sins of evil individuals being revealed. They have kept it hidden, but ‘what is done in the dark will be brought to the light’.
Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman have a great chemistry and individual charisma. Of the pair, you would expect Somerset to have the most obvious darkness, it is hinted at in his body language multiple times. However, it is Mills who is corrupted.
The writing of that arc is incredible. A reckoning is foreshadowed and built throughout the film to a terrifying climax. Pitt and Freeman project an aura of helplessness, while the horror influenced soundtrack, covert but theatrical, bubbles underneath.
Multiple teases come back to haunt them. The Police susceptibility to a bribe; the number seven and the wrath in Mills’ soul. The big reveal is even previously hinted at in the Greek texts.
‘Se7en’ feels like a well crafted play. Like ‘Les Misérables’, multiple storyarcs and themes converge in one final day of judgement.