Every generation has that movie that leaves a lasting impact on it. That one movie that teens talk about in hushed whispers at school, even years after its release. You don't even have to see it, because you've already experienced it vicariously through your peers. The best parts have been spoiled for you in the lunch line.
Today we're going to take a look at the movie that left its bloody stain on my generation. I never actually watched this movie in its entirety, mostly because my peers' constant jabbering about it turned me off. I tend to shun things that are popular at first, annoyed by the attention they receive. Sometimes I regret that little personality quirk, and this is one of those times. Before today, I'd only seen bits and pieces on cable and pieced the basic plot together from schoolyard gossip. Today we're going to talk about the 1995 thriller Se7en.
Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is one week from retirement when he's partnered with a young, hot-tempered detective named Mills (Brad Pitt). The detectives are assigned to a strange homicide case in which the the victim, a morbidly obese recluse, is bound and force-fed spaghetti until his stomach bursts. Unable to stand each other, Mills is reassigned and the next day he begins investigating another murder, where a lawyer was forced to cut a pound of flesh from his own body. The word "GREED" is scrawled on the floor in the man's blood. When clues lead Somerset to the word "GLUTTONY" scrawled on the wall in grease behind the dead fat man's fridge, he realizes that he and Mills are hunting for the same killer.
Mills and Somerset join forces again, and as they investigate a third crime scene where a man has been strapped to a bed for a year and the word "SLOTH" written on the wall, Somerset is convinced they are looking for someone obsessed with the seven deadly sins: Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Wrath. Each crime scene is more brutal and cruel than the last, and while Mills is confident that the killer will eventually make a mistake, Somerset isn't quite so sure, because it's becoming increasingly obvious their quarry is toying with them.
On one hand, I'm disappointed that I didn't give this film a chance when it first hit home video, because it's damn good. On the other hand, I'm glad I waited, because my focus on biblical and mythological literature in college allowed me to appreciate the references to Dante's Divine Comedy, and Milton's Paradise Lost even more. I laughed empathetically when Mills tossed a copy of Dante's Inferno away in frustration. I'll admit, the epic poem is a little bit of a slog. I've also extensively researched serial killers over the years, both for my work and simple morbid fascination, and that made Kevin Spacey's John Doe all the more interesting. Knowing now what a creep Spacey is in real life, its not hard to see how he conjured up his performance.
I'm also glad to finally know the answer to the burning question "What's in the box?" which I won't spoil here for those who've never seen the movie. The finale is tense, and as the final puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, your heart sinks and you can't help but feel for the protagonists. Not all endings are happy, and I applaud the writer for not taking the easy way out and giving us a fairy tale ending.
While the film isn't as scary as I was led to believe by my peers, it is certainly a suspenseful crime thriller worthy of its accolades. I'm glad that after the well-documented difficulties director David Fincher suffered during the production of Alien 3 that he was allowed to stretch his wings on this film and show us his genius. Do yourself a favor and give this one a watch. Just... don't do it on spaghetti night. Trust me.