Seven (1995 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Fincher|
|Produced by||Arnold Kopelson
|Written by||Andrew Kevin Walker|
John C. McGinley
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Edited by||Richard Francis-Bruce|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Release date(s)||September 22, 1995|
|Running time||126 minutes|
Seven (stylized as Se7en) is a 1995 American neo-noir thriller film written by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed by David Fincher. The film stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, with Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, and Kevin Spacey in supporting roles.
The newly transferred David Mills (Pitt) and the soon-to-retire William Somerset (Freeman) are homicide detectives who become deeply involved in the case of a sadistic serial killer (Spacey) whose meticulously planned murders correspond to the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust and envy.
The film was released in the United States on September 22, 1995. Grossing $327 million at the box office internationally, Seven was a commercial success, and received positive reviews.
In a large city of near-constant rain, high levels of crime and urban decay, the soon-to-be retiring Detective William R. Somerset (Freeman) is partnered with short-tempered but more idealistic Detective David Mills (Pitt) who recently transferred to the department.
The events of the movie happen in the span of seven days. On Monday, the detectives discover an obese man who was forced to feed himself to death, representing "Gluttony." The next day, they discover a fatal bloodletting of a rich attorney, representing "Greed". The detectives find a set of fingerprints, as well as additional clues at both murder scenes, and believe they are chasing a serial killer relating to the seven deadly sins. Two days later, the fingerprints leads them to an apartment where they find an emaciated man strapped to a bed. Though he initially appears to be dead, it soon is discovered that the man has been kept alive and entirely immobile by the killer for exactly one year to the day; a drug dealer and child molester before his captivity, this victim represents "Sloth". Though unable to learn anything from the insensate victim, the detectives agree that the killer has planned these crimes for more than a year.
Detective Mills' wife Tracy (Paltrow) is unhappy with their recent move to the city. She meets Somerset after the first two murders and he becomes Tracy's confidante. Upon learning that she is pregnant but has not told her husband, Somerset confides in her his fear that the city is no place to start a family, and reveals that he had ended a relationship years earlier after pressuring his girlfriend to have an abortion. Somerset advises her to not tell Mills if she plans to have an abortion; otherwise, if she decides to keep the child, "spoil that kid every chance you get".
Using library records, Somerset and Mills track down a man named John Doe (Spacey), who has frequently checked out books related to the deadly sins. When Doe finds the detectives approaching his apartment, he opens fire on them and flees, chased by Mills. Eventually, Doe gains the upper hand and holds Mills at gunpoint, but then abruptly leaves, sparing Mills's life. Investigation of Doe's apartment finds handwritten volumes of his irrational judgments and clues leading to another potential victim, but no fingerprints. They arrive too late to find their "Lust" victim, a prostitute killed by an unwilling man wearing a bladed S&M device, forced by Doe to simultaneously rape and kill her, severely traumatizing the man. On Sunday morning, they investigate the death of a young model whose face had been mutilated. Having chosen to kill herself rather than live with a disfigured face, she is the victim of "Pride".
As they return to the police station, Doe goes to the police station and offers himself for arrest, with the blood of the model and an unidentified victim on his hands. They find out that he has been cutting the skin off his fingers to avoid leaving fingerprints. Through his lawyer, Doe claims he will lead the two detectives to the last two bodies and confess to the crimes, or otherwise will plead insanity. Though Somerset is worried, Mills agrees to the demand. Doe directs the two detectives to a remote desert area far from the city; along the way, he claims that God told him to punish the wicked and reveal the world for the awful place that it is. He also makes cryptic comments toward Mills.
After arriving at the location, a delivery van approaches; Somerset intercepts the driver, leaving Mills and Doe alone. The driver hands over a package he was instructed to deliver at precisely this time and location, which is 7 p.m. While Mills holds Doe at gunpoint, Doe mentions how much he admires him, but does not say why. Somerset opens the package and recoils in horror at the sight of the contents. He races back to warn Mills not to listen to Doe, but the killer reveals that the box contains Tracy's head. Doe claims to represent the sin of "Envy"; he was envious of Mills's normal life, and killed Tracy after failing to "play husband" with her. He then taunts the distraught Mills with the knowledge that Tracy was pregnant, asking if Mills will kill him and become "Wrath". Somerset is unable to contain Mills as he repeatedly shoots Doe, killing him and completing Doe's "work". After Mills is taken away, clearly in a state of shock, Somerset is asked by his Captain where he will be, and replies, "Around. I'll be around." As the movie ends, and before the credits roll, Somerset can be heard paraphrasing a quote by Ernest Hemingway, "Ernest Hemingway once wrote 'The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for'...I agree with the second part."
An alternate ending was storyboarded through an artist's rendition, but was never filmed. In the alternate ending, Somerset is able to convince Mills to hand over his gun, after Doe reveals that Tracy's head is in the box and that she was pregnant. Doe is angered by this, stating that Mills and Somerset are upsetting his "work", given to him by God. Doe demands that Somerset give Mills back his gun, but instead, Somerset points the gun at Doe. As John Doe screams "No!", Somerset kills him with the pistol, ending Doe's "work" before it is complete.
- Brad Pitt as Detective David Mills
- Morgan Freeman as Detective Lieutenant William Somerset
- Kevin Spacey as John Doe
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Theresa "Tracy" Mills
- John C. McGinley as SWAT team leader California
- Richard Roundtree as District Attorney Martin Talbot
- Richard Schiff as Mark Swarr
- R. Lee Ermey as Police Captain
- Julie Araskog as Mrs. Gould
- Mark Boone Junior as Greasy FBI Man
- John Cassini as Officer Davis
- Reg E. Cathey as Coroner
- Peter Crombie as Dr. O'Neill
- Hawthorne James as George
- Michael Massee as Man in Massage Parlour Booth
- Leland Orser as Crazed Man in Massage Parlour
- Richard Portnow as Dr. Beardsley
- Daniel Zacapa as Detective Taylor
- Alfonso Freeman as Fingerprint Tech
- Harris Savides as 911 Operator
- Andrew Kevin Walker as Dead Man
- Richmond Arquette as Delivery Man
- Charles S. Dutton (uncredited) as Cop
The primary influence for the film's screenplay came from Andrew Kevin Walker's time spent in New York City while trying to make it as a screenwriter. "I didn't like my time in New York, but it's true that if I hadn't lived there I probably wouldn't have written Seven." He envisioned actor William Hurt as Somerset and named the character after his favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham.
The ending of the screenplay, with the head in the box, was originally part of an earlier draft that New Line had rejected, instead opting for an ending that involved more traditional elements of a detective thriller film with more action-oriented elements. But when New Line sent David Fincher the screenplay to review for his interest in the project, they accidentally sent him the original screenplay with the head-in-the-box ending. At the time, Fincher had not read a script for a year and a half since after the frustrating experience of making Alien 3; he said, "I thought I'd rather die of colon cancer than do another movie". Fincher eventually agreed to direct Seven because he was drawn to the script, which he found to be a "connect-the-dots movie that delivers about inhumanity. It's psychologically violent. It implies so much, not about why you did but how you did it". He found it more a "meditation on evil" rather than a "police procedural".
When New Line realized that they had sent Fincher the wrong draft, the President of Production, Michael De Luca, met with Fincher and noted that there was internal pressure to retain the revised version; De Luca stated that if Fincher promised to produce the movie, they would be able to stay with the head-in-a-box ending. Despite this, producer Kopelson refused to allow the film to include the head-in-a-box scene. Actor Pitt joined Fincher in arguing for keeping this original scene, noting that his previous film Legends of the Fall had its emotional ending cut after negative feedback from test audiences, and refusing to do Seven unless the head-in-the-box scene remained.
Filming took place in Los Angeles, California.
Fincher approached making Seven like a "tiny genre movie, the kind of movie Friedkin might have made after The Exorcist." He worked with cinematographer Darius Khondji and adopted a simple approach to the camerawork, which was influenced by the television show COPS, "how the camera is in the backseat peering over people's shoulder". Fincher allowed Walker on the set while filming for on-the-set rewrites. According to the director, "Seven is the first time I got to carry through certain things about the camera – and about what movies are or can be".
The crowded urban streets filled with noisy denizens and an oppressive rain that always seems to fall without respite were integral parts of the film, as Fincher wanted to show a city that was "dirty, violent, polluted, often depressing. Visually and stylistically, that's how we wanted to portray this world. Everything needed to be as authentic and raw as possible." To this end, Fincher turned to production designer Arthur Max to create a dismal world that often eerily mirrors its inhabitants. "We created a setting that reflects the moral decay of the people in it", says Max. "Everything is falling apart, and nothing is working properly." The film's brooding, dark look was achieved through a chemical process called bleach bypass, wherein the silver in the film stock was not removed, which in turn deepened the dark, shadowy images in the film and increased its overall tonal quality.
The 'head in a box' ending continued to worry the studio after filming was completed. After the first cut of the film was shown to the studio, they attempted to mitigate the bleakness of the ending by replacing Mills' wife's head with that of a dog, or by not having Mills fire on John Doe. However, both Fincher and Pitt continued to fight for the original ending. The final scenes of Mills being taken away and Somerset's quote from Ernest Hemingway were filmed by Fincher after initial filming was complete as a way to placate the studio (the original intention was for the film to suddenly end after Mills shot John Doe).
On the film's title sequence, Fincher has said:
The sequence for Se7en did very important non-narrative things; in the original script there was a title sequence that had Morgan Freeman buying a house out in the middle of nowhere and then travelling back on a train. He was making his way back to the unnamed city from the unnamed suburban sprawl, and that's where the title was supposed to be—"insert title sequence here"—but we didn't have the money to do that. We also lacked the feeling of John Doe, the villain, who just appeared 90 minutes into the movie. It was oddly problematic, you just needed a sense of what these guys were up against. Kyle Cooper, the designer of the title sequence, came to me and said, "You know, you have these amazing books that you spent tens of thousands of dollars to make for the John Doe interior props. I'd like to see them featured." And I said, "Well, that would be neat, but that's kind of a 2D glimpse. Figure out a way for it to involve John Doe, to show that somewhere across town somebody is working on some really evil shit. I don't want it to be just flipping through pages, as beautiful as they are." So Kyle came up with a great storyboard, and then we got Angus Wall and Harris Savides—Harris to shoot it and Angus to cut it—and the rest, as they say, is internet history.
Seven was released on September 22, 1995, in 2,441 theaters where it grossed US$13.9 million on its opening weekend. It went on to gross $100.1 million in North America and $227.1 million in the rest of the world for a total of $327.3 million, making Seven the seventh-highest grossing film in 1995. The film also spent 4 consecutive weeks in the top spot at the U.S. box office in 1995.
The film was well received by critics and currently holds a 79% rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 67 critics with an average rating of 7.6 out of 10, its consensus reading: "A brutal, relentlessly grimy shocker with taut performances, slick gore effects, and a haunting finale." The film also has a rating of 65 on metacritic based on 22 reviews.
Gary Arnold, in The Washington Times, praised the cast: "The film's ace in the hole is the personal appeal generated by Mr. Freeman as the mature, cerebral cop and Mr. Pitt as the young, headstrong cop. Not that the contrast is inspired or believable in itself. What gets to you is the prowess of the co-stars as they fill out sketchy character profiles". Sheila Johnston, in her review for The Independent, praised Freeman's performance: "the film belongs to Freeman and his quiet, carefully detailed portrayal of the jaded older man who learns not to give up the fight". In his review for Sight and Sound, John Wrathall wrote, "Seven has the scariest ending since George Sluizer's original The Vanishing...and stands as the most complex and disturbing entry in the serial killer genre since Manhunter". Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars in his 1995 review of it  and, in 2011, added it to his "Great Movies" list.
New Line Cinema re-released Seven in Westwood, Los Angeles, California on Christmas Day and in New York City on December 29, 1995, in an attempt to generate Academy Award nominations for Freeman, Pitt, and Fincher, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains
- John Doe - Nominated Villain
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Mystery Film
|1995||68th Academy Awards||Best Film Editing||Richard Francis-Bruce||Nominated|
|49th British Academy Film Awards||Best Screenplay - Original||Andrew Kevin Walker||Nominated|
|1996 MTV Movie Awards||Best Movie||Seven||Won|
|Most Desirable Male||Brad Pitt||Won|
|Best On-Screen Duo||Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman||Nominated|
|Best Villain||Kevin Spacey||Won|
For the DVD release, Seven was remastered and presented in the widescreen format, preserving the 2.40:1 aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. Audio options include Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS ES Discrete 6.1, and Stereo Surround Sound.
The Seven DVD features four newly recorded, feature-length audio commentaries featuring the stars and other key contributors to the film, who talk about their experiences making Seven.
Novelization and comic books
In 1995, a novel with the same title was written by Anthony Bruno based on the original film.
Between September 2006 and October 2007, a series of seven publications were published Zenescope Entertainment with each of the seven issues dedicated to one of the seven sins. It told the story from the perspective of John Doe rather than the two homicide detectives as in the film. Each issue included contributions by a group of creators independent of each other. All seven parts became part of a comic book that was released on January 15, 2008 by as SE7EN book edited by David Seidman and Ralph Tedesco.
The opening credit music is a spliced sample of an uncredited remix of the Nine Inch Nails song "Closer", available as "Closer (Precursor)", remixed by Coil, on the "Closer" single. The song during the end credits is David Bowie's song "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", found on his album Outside. The film's original score is by Howard Shore.
- "In the Beginning" – The Statler Brothers
- "Guilty" – Gravity Kills
- "Trouble Man" – Marvin Gaye
- "Speaking of Happiness" – Gloria Lynne – written by Buddy Scott & Jimmy Radcliffe
- "Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 Air" – written by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Stuttgarter Kammerorchester / Karl Münchinger
- "Love Plus One" – Haircut One Hundred
- "I Cover the Waterfront" – Billie Holiday
- "Now's the Time" – Charlie Parker
- "Straight, No Chaser" – Thelonious Monk (Taken from Monk in Tokyo)
- "Portrait of John Doe" – Howard Shore
- "Suite from Seven" – Howard Shore
- "SE7EN (18)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
- "Seven". Box Office Mojo.
- "Seven". Rotten Tomatoes.
- Montesano, Anthony (February 1996). "Seven's Deadly Sins". Cinefantastique. p. 48.
- Taubin, Amy (January 1996). "The Allure of Decay". Sight and Sound. p. 24.
- Salsibury, Mark (2009-01-18). "David Fincher". The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- Mottham, James (2007). The Sundance Kids: How the Mavericks Took Back Hollywood. Faber and Faber. pp. 153–155. ISBN 0865479674.
- Smith, Grady (2011-09-16). "How Brad Pitt fought to keep Gwyneth's head in the box in 'Se7en'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- Perkins, Will (August 27, 2012). "David Fincher: A Film Title Retrospective". Art of the Title. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
- "Seven". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 26, 2008.
- The top six grossing films of 1995 were Die Hard with a Vengeance, Toy Story, Apollo 13, GoldenEye, Pocahontas and Batman Forever.
- "Seven". Metacritic.
- Arnold, Gary (September 22, 1995). "Sinister Seven a killer of a thriller". The Washington Times.
- Johnston, Sheila (January 4, 1996). "Sin has seldom looked so good". The Independent.
- Wrathall, John (January 1996). "Seven". Sight and Sound. p. 50.
- Ebert, Roger (September 22, 1995). "Seven". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Ebert, Roger (July 18, 2011). "Seven (1995)". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Cox, Dan (December 22, 1995). "Seven gets new dates for Oscar season". Variety.
- Creepy, Uncle. "First Blu-ray News: Seven". dreadcentral.com. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
- Bruno, Anthony (1995). Seven: a novel by Anthony Bruno based on a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks. p. 248. ISBN 0-312-95704-1.
- Comic Book Resources.com Horrific sins: SE7EN" comes to comics this September
- MyComicShop: Seven (2006 Se7en) comic books
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- Seven at the Internet Movie Database
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