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Se7en: 20th Anniversary Retrospective

Today, September 22, 2015, is the 20th anniversary of David Fincher's Se7en – which is a modern classic and launched the career of one of cinema's most important filmmakers.

The movie, which is a dark psychological thriller, would have been great with or without Fincher – however it was his direction which lifted it into the realms of greatness.

The story centers on two cops, played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, who are tasked with hunting down a crazed serial killer, played by Kevin Spacey, whose crimes are aligned with the seven deadly sins gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust and envy.

The script, written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Sleepy Hollow), is excellent and like any good cop thriller keeps the audience guessing at every single turn, right to the very bitter end.

The contrast between the two central characters, detective David Mills (Pitt) and the older detective William Somerset (Freeman), is compelling and superbly exploited by the actors. 

Pitt's Mills is young, fresh and chaotic and scoffs at his methodical partner's attempt to get inside the head of the killer.

However, it is Fincher's filmmaking skills which helps inform the audience. There is no use of lazy voiceover to help convey the personalities of his characters, Fincher instead uses the language of film – something which is a dying art in modern cinema. 

The bleak world which the Social Network helmer created was arguably the star of the movie, and has become much imitated in the thriller genre. Se7en was filmed by director of photography Darius Khondji, who won many accolades for the cinematography.

The film is unsettled, uber stylish and contains creative flourishes which to this day are extremely impressive. For instance, the tortured city in which the story is set is never named, and the characters use old vintage telephones and typewriters – indeed it's like Fincher created a parallel universe, much like our world, just darker and much more terrifying.

Se7en was the director's second film after the controversial Alien 3 (1992), which was not well received by fans or critics. Indeed, in many respects, this film was Fincher's last chance at the big time feature filmmaking, having forged a successful career as a music video director.

And in case anyone was in doubt, the then 33-year-old director delivered a savage film noir masterpiece which was sleek, controlled and included one of the most infamous twists in the movie history.

The picture eventually grossed $327 million worldwide from a $33 million budget, and was critically lauded.

The ending involved Mills and Somerset taking Spacey's machiavellian sociopath, who is known only as John Doe, out to the desert at the killer's request, in an effort to solve his final crimes.


 However, a truck then arrives which delivers a box containing the severed head of Pitt's pregnant wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow).

The two cops, and the audience, then learn Mills character is 'wrath' when he kills Doe and that Spacey's evil character was in fact 'envy', as he was supposedly jealous of the detective's happy married life, leading him to decapitate Tracy.

One supposedly suggested ending from the studio involved the detectives racing to the apartment as John Doe went in to kill Tracy, with the camera cross cutting between Doe and cop cars speeding to save Tracy, which they do. Much like the ending of Hannibal. Allegedly, producer Arnold Kopelson put his foot down, and Fincher and writer Andrew Kevin Walker's ending made the final cut


Se7en is quite simply a terrific movie even after 20 years. Spacey reportedly asked for his name not to be included in the famous opening credits in order to keep the audience guessing, and that certainly helped add to the suspense.

But it is Fincher's direction and the world he created which makes the film an enduring classic which is studied at film schools around the world.

Here's the original trailer:

Image: New Line Cinema