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25 Years Later: Seven

27 September 20 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

What's in the box? Miriam Blakemore-Hoy revisits David Fincher's Seven on its 25th anniversary...

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Running time: 127 minutes

I feel a deep-seated envy at anyone out there who still gets to watch Seven for the first time; to experience it without any idea of what the film will hold, and what journey it will take you through. Watching it again 25 years later - an anniversary that’s almost unbelievable - I feel the same rush of adrenaline, apprehension and absolute fascination that I did the first time around.

For those who still don’t know, Seven (stylised SE7EN) is the story of two detectives, each burdened with their own demons, who are drawn into investigating a series of gruesome murders haunting the streets of an unknown city that could easily be New York, Chicago or Detroit. It's deliberately ambiguous. When the first crime is reported – that of an obese man who has apparently eaten til literal bursting point - detectives Somerset and Mills know that this is something out of the ordinary. Somerset is convinced it’s just the start of something big, and as the murders begin to pile up, a pattern starts to emerge: they all centre around the seven deadly sins, Greed, Gluttony, Pride, Wrath, Envy, Lust and Sloth.

I remember moments of feeling physically sick

Directed by David Fincher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker, Seven is a neo-noir, utterly disturbing psychological thriller that delves into the depths of darkness that can be found in the human soul. I wondered whether, after twenty-five years, the film would still have the same impact on me. After so many cop dramas, and CSI-style TV shows, are we more desensitised to the horror that it portrayed? And if so, would it still contain any of the “shock factor” that it had back in the nineties? I remember moments of feeling physically sick, I remember jumping at the jumpy bits - but now the older me obviously has nerves that are made of stronger stuff. 

And yet…the implications of what I was seeing in front of me seemed to go deeper than it used to. I found myself really contemplating the design being carried out by the killer. I could also see more in the characters of the detectives. I remember I always used to be on the side of Brad Pitt’s young and frustrated David Mills as he works on the case. But this time, I realised that the poetry of the story lies with the character of William Somerset, excellently played by Morgan Freeman. He is the anchor to the plot, the brain behind the breakthroughs; yet at the same time, the gentle and quiet spirit that holds on to his integrity and convictions even when the bleakness threatens to overwhelm him. 

I’ve heard it said that the eighth deadly sin is supposedly despair. Maybe Somerset himself sets out representing this – in his outlook on life, and his attitude to the city he lives in. But he finds redemption somehow in the darkest part before the dawn. It’s convinced me once again of the genius of this film, and the utter terrible beauty of the plot. Simply put, if you really haven’t seen this film yet – what on earth are you waiting for?

Did you know? Seven was the seventh-highest grossing film of 1995, and the only movie in the top ten to receive an 18 certificate from the British Board of Film Classification.

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