Fincher is definitely one of the most versatile directors of our age. He’s gone from Dragon Tattoo to Zodiac to Social Network to beyond. I actually kicked off Film Critique Corner with Social Network a long time ago, and it’s one of my favourite works of Fincher. It really does show just how adaptable of a director he is. How he manages to keep his consistent style even under the reins of a story that, quite frankly, is about as unconventional as it gets. Aaron Sorkin’s punchy script helps out, certainly, but this was not the first time I saw Fincher as flexible as he is today.
It was some time before Social Network when I kept hearing whispers of Fight Club and this detective-thriller by the name of Se7en. Truth is I just laughed at the latter’s title, numbers used in the place of letters is just too l33t speak for me to not guffaw. Further still was just seeing how the marketing was built around that ‘7’, but then I decided to see the film. I downloaded it from iTunes, this was quite new back then, and consumed it. It took me into the night and I was absolutely glued. By the end of it, I was speechless. To this day, I think Se7en was a better film than even Fight Club.
It’s hard to find any nitpicks at all. The incredible “killer gives himself up” moment to punctuate the end of Act Two pretty much kicks off a WHAT NOW?! nag in the back of your head. The climax is absolutely wonderful and inevitable, there’s a definite underlying theme of fate throughout Fincher’s films. Timeless themes of power wield themselves into play too, with this becoming the central theme of The Social Network (in my opinion). Here, however, Fincher chooses to capture the murder mystery inside a detective noir inside of a sleazy cityscape story. It reminds me so much of Blade Runner it’s hard to find fault.
It’s a film that, genuinely, still keeps me tense to this day. I still notice tiny new details, still watch the flickers of expressions on Freeman and Pitt’s faces. They are incredible actors and, put together, they just seem to dance and sway to the music of this criminal draining hole. All things must come to a chaotic end, I think that’s the law of Se7en‘s world, and from beginning to end is this pessimistic attitude just drilled into the heads of the characters. Spacey’s serial killer reveal is probably the best thing ever, and ol’ Kev is just a seriously flexible actor in his own right. Put together with Fincher and you have an explosively entertaining mixture.
Except, obviously, there’s some gripes I have with Se7en. Gwyneth Paltrow’s character seems to just be there as “the wife” I guess. My inner feminist revolts against her treatment as a character, but at the same time, the ending is somewhat more pungent that we didn’t get to explore her character. Her talks with Somerset really do unearth some of her inner-feelings, but never truly is the relationship with her and Mills boiled down. Her husband and her own differing treatments of Somerset do, however, help to create her as more than “the wife” in some respects.
It’s all done for that final scene, I feel, and it can be criticised for being both predictable and unpredictable at the same time. It’s predictable in that you know the drill, you know that gruesome things are going to happen and it’s quite unpredictable in how that actually happens. The problem I had with Se7en is that I was super intrigued by the actual murder scenes and wanted to see Somerset and Mills unearth the killings and go deeper into analysing motives and all that crime scene nonsense. It’d make the final scene seem so much more inevitable, so futile. A mad man with a mad idea turning another man mad.
The film whizzes by some of the later murders, and I’m not sure if this is actually an editing issue or not. It even hangs around some of the earlier killings, which we’ve moved passed now. It’s great seeing Somerset and Mills return to where their relationship fostered, and it’s great comparing their dialogue in the exact same setting through the different times they come back to it. What I feel is that this is simply Fincher at work, playing to the pace rather than the story. That is more than acceptable, but not acceptable to everyone who goes to the movies.
If it feels like weak criticism it’s because… it is. The film isn’t perfect, don’t get me wrong, just I can’t seem to find that much wrong with it. The third act, I feel, doesn’t get enough breathing room. The entire film is made around those final moments in which Mills commits the ‘thing’. I however feel that I’d like more time to get into Spacey’s mind, some morbid fascination of mine really. Fincher really does work to keep the film so focused and tightly built around that pacing that some of the filler, which would make the film even larger with its neo-noir visual palette, would balloon the world out later. Would make the murder mystery feel like it was set across a larger scope, know what I mean?
All in all it’s just hard to find fault with Seven. It’s one of my favourite Finchers and I still think it’s better than Fight Club, we might cover that soon. Some issues I have with it, however, are just outright nitpicks that I really shouldn’t bother with.