When talking about Zodiac, I said serial killer movies are played out. They are (pretty much).
Fourteen years ago, though, they weren't. Especially ones like Se7en, which has its share of gruesome scenes and suspense -- but keeps its killings (mostly) offscreen and doesn't reveal its perp until very late (although it's not so much a whodunit as a culmination). Like in Zodiac (which, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, also was directed by David Fincher), there's no brooding psycho in a basement telling people about this crazy thing or that one. Just two cops -- a young punk (The Brad Pitt) and a retiring sage (Morgan Freeman) -- trying to figure out what the hell is going on with this killer who is offing people who violate the Seven Deadly Sins.
You know, like Zodiac. Except for the sins part.
Plus, this one is far darker, far more intense and far more uncomfortable than Fincher's based-on-a-true-story story. Se7en exists at crime scenes instead of in Zodiac's newsrooms, in a dreary, rainy, depressing New York-type city (and later, a bleak Central Valley California-type landscape) instead of evocative San Francisco. Really, it almost makes you sick while you're watching it -- in a good way.
Like I said about Scanners, this one's not for the squeamish. But if you don't mind getting your mind a little dirty, this one has a big psychological payoff. The atmosphere created by Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker is as palpable as there can be on screen. Pitt and Freeman play off each other better than anyone could have imagined back in '95, when Pitt still was little more than a pretty boy (whenever he wasn't, ya know, getting an Oscar nomination for playing a whacko).
And then there's the ending: Instead of the inevitable good guy-versus-bad guy finale, this one goes for much more (don't click on the link unless you've seen it; massive spoilers*). It might leave action/suspense fans wanting. But after all that leads up to it, how could it have been different?
*Side note: If you have seen Se7en, you HAVE to check out this "alternate ending."
-Yep, that's Dr. Cox as "California," the most recognizable SWAT Team member during their raids. No ranting here, though.
-You might also recognize the FBI guy who gives Freeman the library list late in the film. That's Mark Boone Junior, who has become quite noticeable in that sleazy-guy role ... he was the corrupt cop opposite Gary Oldman in Batman Begins, and even played a bum in the baptism episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
-Bonus points for the songs in both title sequences -- a pared-down version of Nine Inch Nails' Closer in the opening credits, and David Bowie's haunting Heart's Filthy Lesson as the final names roll. Perfect in a film like this.
-That opening credits scene might alone have nabbed this movie a much-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing (by Richard Francis-Bruce), its lone nod.