Se7en is a number of things – it’s a pulse-pounding thriller, it’s even an outright horror film at points, but, above all else, it’s a daunting, undyingly uncomfortable insight into humanity’s response to despair and hopelessness, and how we choose to react in the wake of it. It is about two men faced with a slew of the most unspeakable, repugnant and disturbing crimes that have ever graced the big screen, it’s about how these things affect us and, despite being a film unabashedly loaded with grotesque imagery, crushing character progressions and depressing sound and set designs, which makes it it’s objective to reject the very idea of a ‘happy ending’, despite all this, it’s somehow about how we can be better, and how we have to be.
From the moment the film starts, David Fincher wastes no time in demonstrating his prowess for world-building and visual exposition, instantaneously introducing us to the nameless, and equally hopeless, grimy, dirty and gritty city that Se7en unfolds within. Fincher has always been an expert at creating worlds that seem so distant yet so close to the one we occupy, always doing so with a distinct, clear thematic purpose, and here, this purpose is abundantly clear, encouraging us to draw conclusions and formulate opinions regarding this world and it’s occupants just so all of these can be crushed in just a single final line. There is no way this film would have landed and hit as hard as it is does without Darius Khondji behind the camera, supplying endless articulately lit and composed shots that make everything that unfolds in Se7en so terrifyingly visceral.
When it comes to performances, they elevate this material exponentially, adding so many subtle dimensions to every line and emotion, to make each emotional beat so much more hard-hitting, particularly in the film’s exhilarating climax, which has to be one of the best ever. The more and more Fincher films I watch, the more and more sure I am that he is one of the best, and one of my favourite, directors working today. And having now seen Se7en, I am more than comfortable proclaiming it to be the filmmaker’s masterpiece.