Se7en ★★★★

Arguably one of the darkest mainstream films ever released, right from the wonderfully unsettling open credits of David Fincher's sophomore effort Seven you know you're in for a disturbing ride. The sinister atmosphere is palpable. The nameless city is nearly always in the middle of a downpour and the looming buildings cast deep shadows. The cops are weary and the citizens apathetic. The murders are as chilling as anything you'll see in a horror movie (especially the harrowing one involving lust).

What Fincher does well is to eschew the predictable police procedural for something more akin to a character study of two contrasting detectives and their interpretations of evil. The young vigour of Mills and the jaded knowledge of Somerset, you can see the ideological differences in everything from how they dress to how they talk and watching them form an understanding is almost as key to the film as the murder mystery. The casting is ideal with Brad Pitt's agitated energy and Morgan Freeman's dignified intelligence fitting the characters, and both actors play off each other convincingly.

The now iconic finale is much more cerebral than you'd expect, mainly thanks to the eerie monotony of villain John Doe and the despairing ending. There is no easy answer or ray of hope, Fincher makes it clear this is a dark world and doesn't give in to simplistic moralising. He's aided along the way by Andrew Kevin Walker's grim screenplay, Darius Khondji's moody cinematography and Howard Shore's ominous score. I do have issues with the wooden Gwyneth Paltrow (who I've never been a fan of) and some storytelling contrivances, but that doesn't stop Seven from being a distinctly bleak thriller.

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