This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Josh Gibbs’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
“In any major city, minding your own business is a science. The first thing they teach women in rape prevention is never cry for help. Always yell ‘fire.’ Nobody answers to ‘help,’ but you holler ‘fire,’ they come running.”
Fincher truly pulled no punches with his first 'official' feature. An ambitious detective drama with a little more on its mind than catching the killer, Seven is near perfect in both concept and execution, working simultaneously as a grim and grimy mood piece, a tense and taut thriller, and an uncompromisingly bleak examination of the human heart.
DoP Darius Khondji's distinctively grainy camera, lent a helping hand by the largely cold and clinical colour correction, is highly effective for telling this particular story as it imbues the whole thing with a perfectly fitting neo-noir feel. I haven't seen city streets this filthy since Taxi Driver, and I mean that as a compliment. Not even the sheets of rain relentlessly battering down upon the car windscreens is enough to wash away the depravity which lurks therein.
The unlikely duo of Freeman's logically minded, world-weary lieutenant Somerset and Pitt's impulsive and idealistic upstart detective Mills makes for a deft two-hander. United by a common bond of restlessness to crack the case, their clashing ideologies and personalities make for constantly engaging viewing. Despite her limited screen time, Paltrow is an indispensable presence, with the dinner scene in particular injecting some much needed warmth and levity into the proceedings. Her more than capable delivery of the diner exchange effectively communicates the personal stakes necessary to both enhance the tension throughout and to make the final reveal all the more shocking and devastating. And while of course Spacey is shudder-inducingly chilling, he's more than just an ominous threat felt looming over every scene. Playing like all the best villains, despite his reprehensible methods and psychopathic tendencies, he forces you as the viewer to confront his perspective, and to an uncomfortable extent, understand it.
“Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that's the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night.”
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
While it can certainly be enjoyed at face value as simply a chilling, excellently crafted thriller with perfectly paced plotting and reveals, there's more going on beneath the surface than may be initially apparent. Fincher's aforementioned uncompromisingly bleak worldview is certainly tough to stomach at times, and could be all too easily dismissed as nothing more than overly callous cynicism. But there's an underlying harsh-yet-true realism there which few filmmakers are able to grasp, let alone attempt to capture. The entirety of the film is soaked in the idea that immorality still runs rampant on our streets today, that nothing is new under the sun. Simply such a harsh indictment of humanity and nothing more wouldn’t be enough to earn this level of praise from myself (see my 2 star rating of Joker for reference), but it's that final line which really ties the whole thing together for me.
“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part.”
Maybe the world isn't all sunshine and roses, and maybe our hearts aren't as pure as we make them out to be. It's about time we reckoned with the fact. Are we so arrogant as to believe that being informed should mean we are now free of mistakes? No, nothing is new under the sun. But why on earth should that mean the world isn't worth fighting for?