Tuesday, June 8, 2010

#119 Se7en: We are not what was intended

1995. dir. David Fincher, starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey.

Seen it before? No.

I had some problems with this movie. Spoilers ahoy...

Brad Pitt is The Young Hot-shot Detective, and Morgan Freeman is The Grizzled, World-Weary Veteran Detective Who Has One Week Until Retirement. They are trying to track down The Evil Genius Serial Killer Who's Always One Step Ahead, who is murdering people according to the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth. I think the movie would have been funnier if it was the Seven Dwarfs instead...

His scheme sort of makes sense, I guess. The gluttony guy is big and fat, and he kills him by making him eat too much. The greed guy was a rich lawyer, and he kills him by forcing him to cut off a pound of his own flesh. The sloth guy was... uh, a pedophile? Wait. What does that have to do with sloth? And why does he kill Gwyneth Paltrow? What was her "sin"? I think the screenwriter just got lazy.

OK, this part bothered me. Morgan Freeman starts picking up on the literary allusions in the killings: Chaucer, Milton, Dante, etc. So he types up a list of books that he thinks the killer was reading, and hands it to a crooked FBI guy, who looks up who checked out those books from the library. This somehow leads the detectives directly to the apartment of the killer. I have at least three problems with this. One, the books he checked out were common, well-known classics. Any English major would be familiar with all of them. Morgan Freeman's character was too... which leads to problem #2, it's all based on his guesses as to what he would be reading, not any actual evidence. Problem #3 - we see the killer's apartment, and it's full of books. Wouldn't he have bought the books, instead of checking them out from the library? He has the money for it.

One more question. The killer's plan relied on having a married detective chasing him. One thing I've learned from The Wire is that a lot of homicide detectives are alcoholic loners. Just like Morgan Freeman in this movie! How did he know his case would get a married detective assigned to it? How did he know exactly how long it would take them to do the fingerprint analysis and trace the next victim, when fingerprint analysis can take up to 3 days? They got there exactly a year to the day after he started taking pictures, right? Why was the killer soaked in blood when he came into the police department? From killing Gwyneth Paltrow, right? But then he had to pack up the head in a box and give it to the guy to deliver, so wouldn't the guy get freaked out by the killer covered in blood and go to the cops with it?

EDIT: I forgot to talk about the dumbest scene in the whole movie. So the two detectives show up at the killer's apartment, and he's not home. After snooping around for awhile, they leave, and the killer is standing in the hallway, and gets into a shootout with them! They chase him into the alley, and at one point he gets the drop on Brad Pitt and is about to kill him, but Morgan Freeman scares him off and he escapes.

So many questions. Why was he trying to kill the detectives in the first place? Wouldn't that ruin his plan? He needed Brad Pitt to be alive so he could execute the "wrath/envy" murders. He's also taking a huge risk of getting caught. How was he so sure that he could escape from two police detectives? Why didn't the detectives call for backup, or chase him? It seems like they wanted an action set-piece in the second act, but couldn't think of a way to have it make sense, but they went ahead with it anyway. I hate that shit.

Position on the list: 26
What city is this, anyway? I think it's New York because a population sign says 8 million people, and Gwenyth Paltrow talks about having lived "upstate", but it's never explicitly stated.


  1. Dang Sam! I USED to love this movie!!! I knew/understood all of the logical suspensions necessary to watch the movie, like the library issue or the married detective issue, but Fincher hooked me with mood and affect and not logic. it would have been a much more realistic film had wrath been someone else's crime rather than Pitt's, but its still a fun and interesting film. Dont be so hard on it Sam. after all, it is just fiction.

  2. I understand what you're saying about mood, but I think it has to be earned. Here it just seemed contrived, like they were just coming up with the most lurid and shocking things possible, reality be damned.

    Also I'm pretty sure you can blame this movie for all of those SAW movies.