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From Under A Rock: Seven

May 21, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Seven  


I (Michael) had only seen this movie one time before picking it here, and it was yeeeaaaars ago. I thought it was great but for some reason it didn’t resonate with me all that much. This pick is honestly more of an “Aaron wanted me to choose it for him to watch” sort of situation (and even though we haven’t acknowledged it before, he’s made several of his picks just because they were movies I wanted to see, so it’s all good). That doesn’t diminish the value of this movie to me in any way though, so let’s dive in!

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron put the musical Chicago in the limelight for Michael. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock for Seven.

Released: September 22nd, 1995
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker
Brad Pitt as Detective David Mills
Morgan Freeman as Detective Lieutenant William Somerset
Gwyneth Paltrow as Tracy Mills
Kevin Spacey as John Doe

Michael Ornelas: Angry Birds: The Movie came out today and since anger = wrath and that’s one of the seven deadly sins, I picked this as a tie-in. This is a lie — I already explained above that this pick is for Aaron. I think the mystery of the film is great and the character arcs are strong, but it also feels like it spends too much time simply examining creepy crime scenes and not enough times doing anything else. It’s almost like shock-horror, but not as intense as Saw. I really can’t say why this movie doesn’t resonate with me, but maybe that’s part of it.

Aaron Hubbard: I was really looking forward to this one, as I had heard good things about it and I am a fan of the people involved. David Fincher is one of the best and most unique directors in Hollywood, and Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt felt like a fresh pairing for a mystery movie.
Seven Deadly Sins
Michael: So now we’re just starting the actual review and I already sound like I don’t enjoy this movie. That’s not true — it’s a really cool (and twisted) story, and I love the inclusion of the religious elements that drive John Doe forward. I also like that there’s a finite number of murders to expect. It allows for the pacing to breeze along and give us an ending point; if Doe kills seven people, our protagonists lose. If they stop him earlier than that, they’ve saved a life (or more) and stopped a monster. There’s much more to it, but thematically it’s compelling. The sins also make for very visually captivating crime scenes.

Aaron: The Seven Deadly Sins are really more of a folk tradition than any religious canon. The Bible doesn’t list them, for instance. It’s something that other people, like Dante, latched onto and they’ve stuck around because it’s catchy. I mean, how often do you hear “Seven Cardinal Virtues” thrown around? What I like about this is that the very existence of the Seven Sins is something that exists outside the Bible, yet gets attributed to it. It’s people taking their own ideas and giving them weight by saying it’s God’s idea. It’s exactly the kind of thing John Doe would latch onto.

Michael: With insights like that, you continue to blow my mind as an analyst and make me feel like I’m missing something. But that theme is incredibly relevant today and makes the message even more poignant because a lot of people sadly do hide behind their “religious values” to further their agenda. One shortcoming I’ll say about John Doe is that he feels like even he doesn’t believe what he’s pretending to be. He’s an incredibly shallow hypocrite. I don’t know if that is the intent but if it’s not, it feels like a shortcoming on Spacey’s part as an actor: I never bought into this guy as a religious nut.
A City With No Name
Aaron: Something that stuck out to me while watching was the hostile tone of everything, from the claustrophobic environments to the constant rain. It felt surreal, and that was amplified when I heard Gwyneth Paltrow say “I hate this city.” What city? Last week we watched a movie about a specific city in a specific time. Fincher deliberately doesn’t tell us the name of this city, or give us landmarks. It rains all the time, but it’s close to a desert? Even the sides of police cars are kept in shadow, and Fincher is too much of a detail nut for this to be unintentional. By making the city “no city in particular”, it makes it every city. It makes it my city. My world. And this movie doesn’t have much positive to say about it.

Michael: I feel like Los Angeles is a distinct possibility (minus the rain), but you’re right — it does make me just…hate the world. It’s full of sin, it’s ugly, and it hits home. Seven is such a cynical lens through which to look at our world, and yet it feels like a real portrayal. It just forces us to cope with the fact that this kind of ugliness exists in our world. The very ending quote is by Hemingway: “The world is a fine place, and it’s worth fighting for.” and Detective Somerset (Freeman) says “I agree with the second part.” The world is a terrible place, but we need to do our best to protect what good there is. The goal of a movie is to make us feel something, and it does. It just makes us feel unclean afterwards.

Aaron: I actually find it optimistic after a fashion. To me, pretending that everything is bright and sunny is delusional. Saying that a world that’s ugly is still worth defending is a braver, more difficult decision. As an addendum to the “city with no name”, anonymity is a key recurring theme. The killer is John Doe; nobody. Mills remembers a cop getting shot, but can’t remember his name. The victims are easier to recall by their “sins” than their names. Everyone is losing their identity: the very thing that makes them human.
What's in the Box
What’s in the Box?
Michael: What makes a movie memorable? A lot of things, but I’ll tell you what can make or break a film: the ending. You will always walk out of a movie theater with one of two thoughts: “I loved that ending” or “I didn’t like that ending.” Seven ends strongly and has one of the most-quoted endings of all time (the climactic “What’s in the box?”). They do all of this without ever even showing the gruesome detail that serves as the catalyst for the wrath of David Mills. And aside from the ending, the only other detail I remembered about this movie before my rewatch was the Sloth guy still being alive. It’s telling that the ending stuck with me. It’s also for this reason that I think the movie falls short of being an all-time classic. Sure, lots of people hold it in high esteem and watch it, but I don’t know if it will make the cut in 100 years when people are watching “old” movies.

Aaron: I will agree that the ending is the most memorable part of the film, and probably why it sticks around in people’s heads. I feel that I like it more than you, but Fincher’s films are always divisive. I don’t see why people love The Social Network, for instance. But as part of Fincher’s collection of films, I think this one is worth studying to understand his directing style.

Michael: Ha. I loved The Social Network, and it’s because of the performances by Eisenberg and Garfield. And because of the choral cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

Aaron: I’ve been mulling this one around in my head a bit. I think it’s a really excellent movie with a great premise, and solid chemistry between two leads. I admire the commitment to tone, and the ending is phenomenal, but I can’t help feeling that certain parts could have been explored more.


Michael: A great cast, a great ending, and a great theme still managed to make just a good movie. Fincher does great work, but this film will always be less than the sum of its parts. Maybe it’s my gravitating toward visually brighter movies while this film is just grey on grey on grey, maybe it’s that they spent too much time chasing John Doe in the same way (move to a crime scene, study it, repeat), and maybe it’s because I just didn’t really buy John Doe’s motives. It’s a very good movie, but it’s just not “great.”


Aaron: I think the character stuff carried me through the routine, but I also suspect the second viewing feels more tedious.

Michael: Yeah there’s a lot there and it’s not a short movie.

If you could add an 8th Deadly Sin, what would it be?

Next week:
Aaron: So in a couple of weeks, we all get to see if TMNT nostalgia can make seeing Be-Bop, Rocksteady and Casey Jones in a Turtles movie make us like it. I don’t know if it can, but I do know why I love those characters enough to give it a chance. This movie!
Michael: I’ve only seen the first Turtles movie and it was just last year. I know I was slow to the game (and I honestly didn’t love it), but I’m totally down to try again with the sequel.

Aaron: I watched the sequel more than the original, as it was more kid-friendly and goofy than the surprisingly serious original. I can probably quote half the movie from memory.

Which interpretation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is your favorite?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
David Fincher's murder mystery is much like the rest of his work; it's dark and cynical, with characters to match. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt carry the film through its largely straightforward plot, while Kevin Spacey helps bring it to a fantastic close. It’s not Fincher’s strongest work but if you haven’t seen it before, it’s well worth going out of your way to watch at least once..