chavel’s review published on Letterboxd:
I saw Seven in 1995. I had conceded, during my snob phase, it was merely "good." Keep in mind, I felt as did many, that "Silence of the Lambs" knock-offs were coming out of the woodwork. Even if one was good, there was resistance to overpraise a serial killer pic.
Strip it down to broad story treatment analysis, it's trash with above average lurid ingredients. Seven shocked big business at the box office, I mean, it made money because of its gotta see it "shock" value.
The grisly serial killer tale was seen as lurid but surprisingly gripping storytelling, with a particular dark and dank look by David Fincher that made for sleazoid art but not particularly serious art. But...
These thoughts came at a time when he was still an unproven director with only the mixed result of "Alien 3" behind him. It took time to be convinced Fincher consciously knew what he doing all along.
I finally saw Seven again in 2015, and then again to ring in the New Year in 2021. The reaction in recent years has become, Wow. It can hold a legitimate claim that it hearkens Dante's "Inferno," as we are plunged in the most anonymous of dilapidated metropolises, infested by depraved elements.
Plus, this is one of Morgan Freeman’s great performances, as a wise cop of muted jadedness who feels obliged to mentor the young Brad Pitt cop who is too cocky, without professional acumen and burdened with taking care of a young wife (Gwenyth Paltrow). Freeman with his discerning insight is the only one that understands the horrid internal nature of the John Doe serial killer. He does not want to leave this case to the neophytes or to the other burnouts at the precinct.
There's a shot of vertiginous power towards the end that I love, even if it is the briefest of shots. Detective Somerset (Freeman) has just learned what's in The Box. At a distance, he recognizes the potential panic that is coming from his partner David Mills (Pitt). Jolted to act, Somerset furiously run as he tries to interrupt the dreadful interaction happening between John Doe (Kevin Spacey) and Mills -- this running handheld shot that's lopsided, that imbues a sense of frenzy and dread and trepidation, that whatever's about to be revealed from The Box it means that the world, for all its principle heroes, is about to collapse.