Se7en (1995)

Starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman


First and foremost, you must know that I do love this movie. I love the set-up, the grey, rainy atmosphere, the hardened but wise old detective and the new, reckless one. I enjoyed watching the creative nature of the murders and the sneaky clues left by the killer.

The first time I watched this movie (and I have watched it many times), I was shocked and somewhat confused when, just past the middle of the movie, the killer gives himself up. How could this be? The wise pro didn’t figure it out yet and the quick acting, easily angered rookie didn’t either. Also, there were still two more deadly sins to complete. What was he up to?

Kevin Spacey plays a psycho well, and his cryptic comments and passive aggression riles up Pitt’s rookie as they drive to the site where the killer promises to show them more bodies. The ending chain of events is just as shocking and unexpected as the off-formula killer turning himself in. In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t reveal anymore. I was taught that when ending a novel, go for the unexpected BUT make it an ending that the reading will think about and say “of course, it couldn’t have ended any other way, why didn’t I see that coming.” Se7en accomplished that.

I was also taught to be real with the reader. Don’t expect them to buy something so outlandish that it could never happen in real life or if a fantasy, something that breaks the rules of your world. And therein lies my critique of Se7en. These murders are so elaborate, the clues hidden away so that it takes multiple trips to the scene and a thorough search before finding them. Some murders were planned out at least a year in advance and many required much surveillance, research and money. Yes, money—there is that whole “how does the serial killer have so much specialized equipment at his/her disposal?” question again. What do these movie/novel killers do for a living and if it is a full-time job, when do they have time to see to all their complex, meaningful crimes?

And the end. The end required an almost ESP level of forethought. Even the most meticulous killer could not have pulled that off. This guy had to understand the psychology of the detectives potentially even BEFORE he started killing. As I said, this guy’d been planning this for some time. This is my problem with a lot of movies and novels about killers. And can you imagine the level of self-control this guy had in order to do these murders in the way he did. Do psycho’s have that kind of control?

My other issue is with Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Tracy. Is any spouse that completely and unconditionally understanding? Does she ever get upset or angry? Why is she so good? I couldn’t find her realistic, and because she seemed so flawless, I couldn’t like her which resulted in a little less impact on me in the end. Same for Pitt’s detective. He never really showed a softer side, he was the macho cop know-it-all the entire time. His relationship with Freeman’s older, almost retired detective was so formulaic you wanted to smack Pitt upside the head and say “would you fucking listen to him for once in your damn life, punk? Haven’t you seen these movies, don’t you know your attitude is going to fuck everything up just as he is trying to retire without a bad taste in his mouth?”

But it is fiction, it’s meant to first entertain. It does. The writer wants you to be intrigued by the unique MO of the killer. We are. Did it do its job? Yes, it did. So who am I to complain about the unrealistic abilities of the a super genius murderer? Just someone assigned to critique a movie that I have always loved—because it entertained me and the murders were pretty cool.


3 thoughts on “Se7en

  1. John Doe’s first twist is giving himself up, and I love it. Because we are left wondering where the other two murders are and how are they going to end this thing if he’s already in custody.
    Your critiques are totally valid. Where does Doe get his money? And the time to surveil his prey? I guess the best serial killers are independently wealthy or something. I did find it odd that they had to go back to the scene to reveal GLUTTON written behind the fridge. I think it proved that point that we didn’t need those words on the wall to know where the killer was coming from in his message.


  2. It DID take an amazing level of forethought and a great deal of confidence in the human condition. I think John Doe’s gamble that Mills would shoot him speaks more about the state of human affairs than it is about plot holes. If Mills didn’t shoot him, would the movie have been as believable? I really don’t think so. I know that I cheered when he pulled the trigger.

    Also, the cinematography was fantastic.


  3. I like that you’re pointing out some of the flaws in Seven. I didn’t really have a problem with Tracy, though I think your points are quite valid, but I do remember questioning John Doe’s background for a moment. Everything he did was laid out and executed perfectly, in an almost Hannibal Lecter way (at least intelligence wise). I let it slide because I liked the ending so much, but his lack of background does seem incredibly convenient, as it doesn’t give any reason as to why he was able to accomplish everything that he did. I know that wasn’t the point of the movie, but it still leaves a bit of doubt toward the story for me.


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