A thrilling walk through the valley of death

"Seven" is showing at Catalina Cinemas, 881-0616.

"Seven," directed by David Fincher, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, starring Morgan Freeman (Somerset), Brad Pitt (Mills), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Tracy).

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

"Seven" is a dense experience. Its moral pessimism and sense of squalor pelts the viewer like the pounding rain, howling sounds and piercing lights that punctuate its dilapidated urban setting. Through the monochrome streets and shadowy interiors of the unnamed metropolis moves a brutal serial killer who tortures offenders of the "seven deadly sins" made famous in medieval sermons and writings from Thomas Aquinas to Chaucer. The sins are gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, pride, wrath and lust, and the film devises graphic ways to illustrate each one.

Two homicide police detectives, Somerset and Mills, begin tracking the killer and find themselves at philosophical odds with each other's tactics. Somerset is six days from retirement and years of working the streets have brought him to a state of apathy fueled by a sense of powerlessness. For him, detective work isn't about "catching criminals," it's about "collecting evidence for future prosecutors." Mills, however, is an eager novice with a wife and a new home. To him, the world is black and white, and the "good guys" prevail through active determination, impounding the wicked.

As the detectives trail the killer from one grisly murder to another, their philosophies entangle. Somerset enjoys collecting evidence and solving intellectual puzzles. He spends his time searching libraries for possible clues, but Mills throws literature to the side and oversteps police procedures to search apartments and pursue suspects through rain-slicked alleyways.

"Seven" successfully brings its philosophical issues to the fore, which is no small feat considering the intense violence and gore that vies for the audience's attention. But this is no "Silence of the Lambs" with Hannibal Lecter's tidy psychology and self-referential black humor. In fact, there is very little humor in this movie swathed in a thick grey atmosphere of constricting melancholy.

The film is directed by David Fincher, who previously helmed the sloppy "Alien3," a movie that tried to disguise its dramatically incoherent script with a startling visual gloss reminiscent of the visual pyrotechnics of director Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner"). But with "Seven," Fincher's bleak visual interests are complimented by Andrew Walker's debut script. The ill-lit rooms pierced by sizzling light beams and eternally grey surroundings compliment the film's philosophical weight and dramatic intensity.

Is the killer insane or a twisted intellectual simply making a statement against the inequity of society? How morally corrupt is society and are charges of moral apathy relevant? Mills vehemently denies any sense of truth to the killer's pattern saying, "Just because he owns a library card doesn't make him Yoda." But Somerset quickly argues that to write the killer off as a simple lunatic would be a grievous error in judgment.

Morgan Freeman provides the humanity that helps the audience overcome the grisly material through his typically understated and endearing performance. Pitt is less engaging as the hot-headed Mills, but he manages to carry his character with his usual charisma.

"Seven" is a bleak movie well told with visual and narrative intensity. While its climax contains elements of predictability, it rumbles toward its conclusion with moody pessimism punctuated by shocking discoveries. Its colorless world beset by tragedy will remain in the audience's minds long after they visit.

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