|Directed by||David Fincher|
|Produced by||Arnold Kopelson
|Written by||Andrew Kevin Walker|
|Narrated by||Morgan Freeman|
R. Lee Ermey
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Editing by||Richard Francis-Bruce|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Release date(s)||September 22, 1995
2000 (as SE7EN)
|Running time||128 min.|
Seven (styled as Se7en) is a 1995 American crime film directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker. The story follows a retiring detective (Morgan Freeman) and his replacement (Brad Pitt), jointly investigating a series of ritualistic murders inspired by the seven deadly sins.
In an unidentified city of near-constant rain and urban decay, Detective William R. Somerset (Freeman) is preparing to retire and leave the horrors of the city; before he does, he is partnered with Detective David Mills (Pitt), a cocky and short-tempered young cop who has recently voluntarily transferred to the precinct. The two investigate the murder of an extremely obese man who has been force-fed spaghetti until he passed out, the killer then kicked him in the stomach, causing it to burst. Somerset investigates this murder while Mills handles the murder of a successful defense attorney named Eli Gould, found with GREED written in his own blood on the office floor. The killer had held him, presumably at gunpoint, and forced him to cut off a pound of his own flesh as a price to pay for his sins. Soon after, Somerset finds GLUTTONY written in the grease built-up behind the obese man's fridge and theorizes that a serial killer is basing his crimes on the seven deadly sins with five more murders to go.
To give Mills and Somerset a chance to get along, Mills' wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) invites Somerset over for dinner. After she goes to sleep, Mills and Somerset examine case evidence from the two scenes. They find a picture of Gould's wife with blood painted around the eyes. The detectives ask a distraught Mrs. Gould (now sequestered in a safe house) to look at the pictures and she notices an abstract painting that's hanging upside-down. Brushing fingerprint powder on the wall behind the painting, Somerset finds the words "help me" formed by overlapping fingerprints.
Running the prints through AFIS, they are traced a day later to a mentally-disturbed pedophile nick-named Victor, who escaped conviction for raping a minor due to the efforts of his lawyer Eli Gould, the GREED victim. SWAT and the detectives raid his apartment to find Victor is the SLOTH victim, having been bound to his bed for exactly one year, as evidenced by pictures at the scene: one from every day since the day he was made a prisoner. It also reveals that the killer had planned his killings at least a year in advance. At first they think Victor is dead and one of the SWAT officers comments: "You got what you deserved!". Remarkably, he is still alive, but suffering from severe physical and mental deterioration; additionally, his hand was cut off to leave the prints at the GREED scene. When the detectives later try to interrogate Victor in the hospital, the doctor says that his "brain is mush" and his death is imminent, and even if it wasn't he couldn't speak to them because he had "chewed his own tongue out long ago". That evening, Tracy calls Somerset and requests that he meet with her. The next morning, Somerset meets Tracy in a diner where she tells him how miserable she is in "the city". At Somerset's urging, Tracy reveals the truth of her request to meet: she is newly pregnant, afraid of raising a child where they live and afraid of telling David. Still regretting the loss of his own fiancée and his would-be child many years previously, Somerset tells Tracy to decide for herself whether or not to have the baby, but assuming she may choose the latter option, he advises her not to tell Mills.
Later that day, using an FBI contact, Somerset gets a list of library patrons who have borrowed books related to the seven deadly sins. The list leads the detectives to a man named John Doe, whose apartment they visit soon after. Doe, his face hidden to the pair, sees them as he comes home and pulls out a gun. After a long chase, Doe hits Mills with a tire iron, keeps him subdued at gunpoint, but lets him live and suddenly flees. While examining Doe's apartment (after bribing a homeless woman to claim she called the detectives about Doe, thus giving them probable cause to enter his apartment legally) they find notebooks of his thoughts, trophies of the crimes and a picture of Mills fighting off Doe, who, at the time, was posing as a press photographer. They also find a photo of a young woman, a prostitute, who they believe may be the next victim. A receipt leads them to an S&M leather shop where Doe placed an order for a sexual device. The girl is soon found dead in a room with LUST written on the door. Also found in the room is an extremely traumatized man who was forced by Doe at gunpoint to wear and use the device, a strap-on dildo with a blade attachment, to simultaneously rape and kill the girl.
A beautiful young model is found dead with PRIDE written on the crime scene. Doe cut off her nose ("to spite her face") and gave her the choice of suicide by sleeping pills or calling for help and living scarred. As the detectives return to the police headquarters, Doe walks up to them with bloody hands (with blood not only from the PRIDE victim, but also from an unidentified source, as well as his own from the practice of removing his fingertip skin) and gives himself up. He talks to his lawyer and agrees that if he can take Somerset and Mills to two more bodies, he will confess to the murders or else plead insanity. Wanting a confession and a chance to satisfy the public's interest in the case, the detectives agree to the request. As the three travel to the desert outskirts of the city, Doe explains his rationale behind the murders as a way of showing people what the world is, as well as punishing the wicked. He goes on to say he will be remembered and admired for what he has done, while the disgusted Mills is driven to rage and screams at Doe while Somerset remains calmly worried.
Once they reach the outskirts, a van appears and Somerset stops it. The driver claims someone paid him $500 to deliver a box at this place and time. As Somerset opens the box and peers inside, he recoils in horror at the sight of the contents. As he screams to Mills and instructs him not to listen to Doe, Doe admits to Mills that he admires Mills' life, to the point of growing jealous of his wife and the love they share. He states that he tried to "play husband" with Tracy earlier that day but it did not work out and he took a souvenir instead: "her pretty head". That is exactly what is inside the box Somerset has just opened. It was Doe's plan that Mills kill him, as he was guilty of the sin of ENVY. He also reveals to Mills that Tracy was pregnant. Despite Somerset's pleading, the grief-stricken Mills empties his gun into Doe. Mills, by killing Doe in vengeance, comes to embody the sin of WRATH, completing the string of crimes and causing Doe to win.
After a catatonic Mills is taken away, Somerset is asked where he will be and responds, "around", suggesting he will not go through with his retirement. The film ends with the sun setting over the desert, with Somerset quoting Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls:
|“||'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part.||”|
Movie screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker appears as a cameo in the role of the first victim seen in the film, and cinematographer Harris Savides also plays a cameo as a 911 receptionist. Savides worked as a cinematographer in two David Fincher's movies: The Game and Zodiac. The film also features Alfonso Freeman, son of Morgan Freeman, in the part of a fingerprint technician, Hawthorne James as a security guard in the library, and an uncredited Charles S. Dutton in the part of a cop.
The primary influence for the film's screenplay came from Andrew Kevin Walker's time spent in New York City while trying to make it as a screenwriter. "I didn't like my time in New York, but it's true that if I hadn't lived there I probably wouldn't have written Seven." While writing the screenplay, he envisioned actor William Hurt as Somerset and named the character after his favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham.
During pre-production, Al Pacino was considered for the Somerset role but decided to do City Hall. Jeremiah Chechik was attached to direct at one point. After the frustrating experience of making Alien 3, director David Fincher did not read a script for a year and a half. He said, "I thought I'd rather die of colon cancer than do another movie". Fincher eventually agreed to direct because he was drawn to the script, which he found to be a "connect-the-dots movie that delivers about inhumanity. It's psychologically violent. It implies so much, not about why you did but how you did it".
Fincher approached making Seven like a "tiny genre movie, the kind of movie Friedkin might have made after The Exorcist." He worked with cinematographer Darius Khondji and adopted a simple approach to the camerawork, which was influenced by the television show Cops, "how the camera is in the backseat peering over people's shoulder". Fincher allowed Walker on the set while filming for on-the-set rewrites. According to the director, "Seven is the first time I got to carry through certain things about the camera - and about what movies are or can be".
The urban streets filled with crowded, noisy denizens while an oppressive rain always seems to fall without respite was an integral part of the film, as Fincher wanted to show a city that was "dirty, violent, polluted, often depressing. Visually and stylistically, that's how we wanted to portray this world. Everything needed to be as authentic and raw as possible." To this end, Fincher turned to production designer Arthur Max to create a dismal world that often eerily mirrors its inhabitants. "We created a setting that reflects the moral decay of the people in it," says Max. "Everything is falling apart, and nothing is working properly." The film's brooding, dark look was also created through a chemical process called bleach bypass, whereby the silver in the film stock is not removed, which in turn deepened the dark, shadowy images in the film and increased its overall tonal quality.
The special edition of the DVD makes clear that other endings were considered for the film.
In an earlier draft for the film, Walker wrote a different finale for the film, in which Doe does not kill Tracy but leads the detectives on a chase. Upon approaching an abandoned warehouse where he claims two bodies are hidden, he drops through a manhole into the sewer system, and Mills gives chase. However, he is subdued by Doe and taken to an old church, but Somerset arrives to save him. When Mills tries to fight back, he is shot and killed by Doe, which prompts Somerset to shoot the killer and leave him to die in the now-burning church. After Mills is given a hero's funeral, Tracy decides to move back to Philadelphia, and Somerset promises to keep in touch with her following his retirement. It ends with him returning to the police station, making it clear that he is not finished with his job.
The studio initially wanted to go with this ending, but they dropped it after Pitt refused to promote the film unless the final ending Fincher had planned was used.
An unfilmed but alternate ending made up of storyboards features Somerset shooting John Doe in an act of self-sacrifice to save Mills and prevent Doe from winning. The buildup to the climax is played out as it was in the final product, albeit with some minor differences. Upon learning of the death of Tracy and his unborn child, Mills tries to convince Somerset to let him kill Doe, explaining that they could claim he was trying to escape. After Somerset pleads with him to give up his gun, he asks "Who will take my place?" and then shoots Doe. When a shocked Mills yells "What are you doing?" Somerset simply says, "I'm retiring", implying that he will take responsibility and cover up what Mills planned to do.
On the DVD commentary, Fincher states that once the desired resolution to the Doe/Mills/Somerset confrontation was settled upon, the film was then to end immediately after Mills shot Doe— the final camera shots being the scene of the crime seen from the helicopter. Nevertheless, in the end the additional scene was added with Mills being driven off to get help and Somerset indicating that he would not retire yet.
Seven was released on September 22, 1995 in 2,441 theaters where it grossed USD $13.9 million on its opening weekend. It went on to gross $100.1 million in North America and $227.1 million in the rest of the world for a total of $327.3 million, making Seven the fifth highest grossing film in 1995, behind Toy Story, Die Hard with a Vengeance, GoldenEye, and Batman Forever.
The film was generally well-received by critics and currently has an 84% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Gary Arnold, in the Washington Times, praised the cast: "The film's ace in the hole is the personal appeal generated by Mr. Freeman as the mature, cerebral cop and Mr. Pitt as the young, headstrong cop. Not that the contrast is inspired or believable in itself. What gets to you is the prowess of the co-stars as they fill out sketchy character profiles". Sheila Johnston, in her review for The Independent, praised Freeman's performance: "the film belongs to Freeman and his quiet, carefully detailed portrayal of the jaded older man who learns not to give up the fight". In his review for Sight and Sound, John Wrathall wrote, "Seven has the scariest ending since George Sluizer's original The Vanishing...and stands as the most complex and disturbing entry in the serial killer genre since Manhunter".
New Line Cinema re-released Seven in Westwood, California on Christmas Day and in New York City on December 29, 1995 in an attempt to generate Academy Award nominations for Freeman, Pitt, Fincher, and Walker.
Walker received a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Film editor Richard Francis-Bruce was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing, and Director of Photography Darius Khondji's extensive use of bleach bypass film processing has since been noted as a major influence on contemporary cinematographic technique, especially in the late 1990s. The film was given an MTV Movie Award as best movie.
For the DVD release, Seven was remastered and presented in the widescreen format, preserving the 2.40:1 aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. Audio options include Dolby EX 5.1, DTS ES Discrete 6.1, and Stereo Surround Sound.
The Seven DVD features four newly recorded, feature-length audio commentaries featuring the stars and other key contributors to the film, who talk about their experiences making Seven.
This DVD is also compatible with DVD-ROM drives. Disc One features a printable screenplay with links to the film.
In 2006, comic book publisher Zenescope Entertainment began a seven-issue miniseries, each issue focusing on one of Doe's victims before they were killed; e.g. the first issue, SE7EN: Gluttony, focuses on the "fat man". Issue 4 reveals the origin of John Doe as penned by author Christian Beranek.
The opening credit music is a spliced sample of an uncredited remix of the Nine Inch Nails song "Closer", available as "Closer (Precursor)" on the "Closer" single. The song during the end credits is David Bowie's song "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", found on the Outside album. The film's original score is by Howard Shore.