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30. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Se7en

September 4, 2018

Director: David Fincher
Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey
Runtime: 127 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1995

 

★★★★★

 

The film that reignited David Fincher’s career after the personal failure of Alien 3, Se7en is arguably the greatest, darkest and nastiest work in a filmography of dark and nasty works.

 

Taking the genre of the neo-noir and its character archetypes, and elevating it to the level of a well-paced and structured piece of literature, Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay is a beautifully violent nightmare. A narcissistic meditation on apathy and morality explored through old and young eyes, the ageing pessimist William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and the do-gooder beat cop David Mills (Brad Pitt) – but above all else, it’s a measure of the incomprehensible nature of true, unrepentant evil.

 

There's a haunting practicality and obscurity to the film’s presentation that saturates its noir roots; the world of Se7en and its unnamed city is one that is slowly winding down like a ticking clock toward its final days. This is a dirty and corrupted world, fed by a near-apocalyptic atmosphere of mythical context and importance where any good or innocence has been trapped and stamped out in the dark, its mortal path of sin leading to a biblical climax in a desolate wasteland.

 

The murder scenes are so well designed on a set and dressing level, touching on the best work of Italian Giallo movies, where the real horror lies not only in presentation – both Fincher’s direction and Darius Khondji’s cinematography bathe the frame in an unearthly darkness – but in the dramatic reactions of the surround cast in the murderer’s wake. Pitt and Freeman give bold, emotionally ringing and battered performances that feel exhaustively powerful to observe, while Kevin Spacey encapsulates the dangerous, appalling villain in John Doe, and Gwyneth Paltrow brings a steadied levity to the film's black heart.

 

Even given its sterling reputation, Se7en is David Fincher’s dark, macabre masterpiece.

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