Expertly crafted but the subject matter is just too unremittingly macabre. The cynicism of this film wore me down to the point of spiritual exhaustion. The plot is an endless downward spiral of misery and despair with no light at the end of the tunnel. It takes every possible opportunity for optimism or comic relief, and brutally sodomizes it. I came out of my viewing experience disgusted with humanity, and not in an ironic or transcendent way.
The story follows two weary beat detectives hunting a brilliant and sadistic serial killer through the gritty, rain-soaked back alleys of an ambiguous goth-noir metropolis. "John Doe", so named because of the complete absence of evidence pertaining to his identity, is a case study in pure evil. He not only has a knack for avoiding the authorities, but of picking and torturing his victims in a complicated and meticulous fashion related to their partaking of the seven deadly sins. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are in top form, no complaints there, and watching them react to and pick apart the sinister puzzles John Doe leaves behind makes up the meat of the movie. The best part of Seven is the way it shapes your perception of the killer as a character long before you even meet him. The use of environmental details in the crime scenes and all the detective chatter is top notch. There are several post-murder investigative sequences that will give any sane person chills. The part where they stumble on the killer's apartment and find decades of rambling philosophical journal entries is particularly unsettling. There is an intense chase scene that goes nowhere and ends up serving as foreshadowing for the bizarre, twisted climax that many have lauded as setting a new standard for the genre, but for me it felt like one final sick slap in the face. If only Mills had risen to the occasion and exercised some self control, the film could have ended on a high note. But nooooo.
Sound like your cup of tea? Go nuts. They say that everyone has their own personal boundary when it comes to what they will allow themselves to perceive as art, and this movie certainly showed me where mine is. If you haven't accidentally been suckered into watching it already, avoid Seven unless you are a masochist. Or a film student. In which case you will inevitably be forced to endure this monstrosity in order to appreciate Fincher's "craft". Either way, enjoy feeling sad and angry for the rest of the evening.
Riddle: If a box opens in the desert, and we can't see what's inside, do we really care?