A reticent, soon-to-retire homicide detective (Det. Somerset, Morgan Freeman) reluctantly partners up with a volatile, youngster (Det. Mills, Brad Pitt) when a string of gruesome murders are committed in the theme of the seven deadly sins… ⁣

This character dynamic is a long-proven recipe of the cop movie: the impetuosity of youth clashing with the prudence of experience, but united in the fight for justice. But in the case of 𝘚𝘦𝟽𝘦𝘯, it is the nature of these sins, both their grisliness and philosophical weight, that transcends the superficiality of the buddy-cop formula and into the incomprehensible abyss of the underworld, or more specifically, Dante’s 𝘐𝘯𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘰. ⁣

This struggle between good and evil (which in itself is a cloudy concept in the case of 𝘚𝘦𝟽𝘦𝘯) takes place in a nameless city of perpetual rainβ€”a city where homicides are so common that they’re rarely deemed newsworthy. Consequently, the seasoned Det. Somerset sees his job as comparable to leaving buckets along the sidewalk so to catch some of this unremitting drizzle. And so, whether we interpret these unvaryingly inclement conditions as God’s tears or a sign of His abandonment, either way, the city seems primed for a cattle-prod shock into action.⁣

Which is where John Doe (Kevin Spacey) comes into play, a religious fanatic whose preachings (in this case, a series of horrifying executions) are grounded in erudition. He draws from the 𝘊𝘒𝘯𝘡𝘦𝘳𝘣𝘢𝘳𝘺 π˜›π˜’π˜­π˜¦π˜΄, Dante’s 𝘐𝘯𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘰 and the works of Thomas Aquinas to justify his murders, and like the best villains in film (Anton Chigurh, The Joker, Hans Landa etc.), an audience can at least appreciate the motivation behind their actions, and even be ever-so-slightly/briefly seduced by them.⁣

In sum 𝘚𝘦𝟽𝘦𝘯 is a detective thriller with only a few minor annoyances which hold it back from joining the other few truly air-tight Fincher films. For starters, Mills’ character is impulsive to such an extent that any claims of competency on the film’s part seems a stretch at best. While it is this recklessness that forges his path, ultimately all the way to its inevitable and powerful conclusion, the lack of emotional restraint present in his detective work is closer akin to that of an angsty teen who has misplaced his pouch of kush, as opposed to a trained detective who has supposedly been solving crimes for five years already.⁣

Further, one gets the sense this is a film directed by someone in total command of your attention: you see both 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘡𝘩π˜ͺ𝘯𝘨 and 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 what they want you to see. Which brings me to the visual choices (which I do not doubt [knowing Fincher {though not personally}] are β€˜choices’ grounded in reason, and not merely mindless effects)… Through a chemical process called β€˜bleach bypass’, the blacks in this film are not only jet black but in abundance, consuming every frame in a ubiquitous shadow, giving the film an aptly broody and dreadful feel.

While this might make for some great screen-grabs and fits in with the sense that you only see what you are permitted to, it is nonetheless something I continue to find (after four or so viewings) altogether tiresome, as I find myself constantly straining to make out the action, and it is a choice ultimately maintained by the improbable trend of every character having an aversion for adequate lighting in their homes.⁣
Nit-picks aside, this is a near-flawless film, and well-worth your time.⁣

Will Paine⁣