David Fincher’s career has been a diverse and admirable one. His movies vary in style and purpose but, for the most part, remain ambitious and impressive. His portfolio isn’t perfect but it reflects a director who has explored many avenues of cinema, transforming and growing as a film-maker as a result. Many would argue that his greatest accomplishment is the timeless and consistently cool Fight Club – a movie that is responsible for introducing so many to the more alternative possibilities of mainstream cinema. For me, it always comes back to the grizzly and intense masterpiece that is Seven. His second feature film, Seven was the first glimpse into the types of films Fincher really wanted to make. In a particularly gloomy and isolating city which could easily be either Boston, Chicago or Seattle, we meet two detectives. Morgan Freeman plays a Lieutenant preparing for his retirement. Brad Pitt takes on the role of Detective Mills, wide eyed at the very beginning of his career and new to the city. The two men have little in common except for the case they are assigned to. Both men attempt to track down a killer whose intention is to punish those for the seven deadly sins. The killer leads them from one grotesque scene of imaginative murder to the next in what becomes a race against time to prevent the next killing. As our detectives move from scenes of gluttony to envy to sloth, we grow closer to our leading men who learn a lot from one another as their horrifying mission slowly unites them. Seven remains intense and grim from beginning to end, climaxing in a triumphant and tragic finale that grips its audience and uncovers some eerie truths.
The film’s opening credit sequence sticks in my mind more vividly then any of the murders themselves. Designed by Kyle Cooper, the opening sequence is not only a landmark piece of film but became one of the most significant pieces of artistic innovation of the 1990s. It also perfectly captures the mood of Seven and all of its neo-noir nastiness. Within the first three minutes of Seven Fincher managed to place the cringe-worthy memories of Alien 3 far behind him. It also destroyed any expectations viewers may have had of seeing Brad Pitt in hunk mode or Freeman in his usual cheesy Hollywood light. The supporting cast are as outstanding as the leads. Gwyneth Paltrow manages to bring some sort of charm to such a grey movie. Paltrow is rarely this understated and well suited to a role. Seven is stylish, subtle and simplistic making it simultaneously a film you so easily forget when considering the greatest works of Pitt, Freeman and Fincher and a film that can never fade in your memory. I’ve seen Seven several times and the images remain crisp in my mind because of the film’s character and power. No contemporary film-noir has ever been as brave as Seven which refuses to pander to the sensitivity of its audience. With Seven, Fincher started as he meant to go on. He brings the ferocity of his second movie to most of his other projects but it was, and still is, Seven that reminds us the most prominently that Fincher is the one who makes the cool films. Rivalled by the likes of Christopher Nolan, but never defeated, David Fincher knows just how to push the limits and leave his mark. Seven is still his greatest work – a gruelling experience that never dates or loses its impact.
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