Se7en Blu-ray Review
'Se7en' dwarfs the competition.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 9, 2010
Honestly, have you ever seen anything like this?
Filmmaker David Fincher's latest project is a picture that deals with the founding of the popular website Facebook. That sure sounds menial, dull, and purposeless, but considering that Fincher has established himself as one of the top filmmakers of the past decade or so with titles like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, and Panic Room -- not to mention his masterpiece Se7en -- to his name, no doubt The Social Network will prove to be a finely-crafted and wholly-mesmerizing picture that delves well beyond its superficially trivial façade. The point is that Fincher has proven his worth as not just a quality filmmaker -- those are almost commonplace in Hollywood -- but as an extraordinary one, and if there's one film on his resumé that speaks to just how good he is, it's Se7en, a 1995 Horror/Thriller that tells an absorbing, shocking, and altogether frightening tale of man, sin, society, and the fine line which separates good and evil, doing so with an incredibly absorbing noir style and first-rate acting that together elevate the film from "exceptional" to "all-time classic."
I don't understand this place any longer.
Big city detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman, Deep Impact) is a week away from retirement. He's a grisled veteran of the mean and dirty streets, someone's who's seen it all and wears the badge of a dour, downtrodden life on his sleeve. Though he should be cleaning out his desk rather than working another crime scene, he's called to duty and teamed with a youthful detective with a short fuse and a young wife, David Mills (Brad Pitt, Troy). They're on the case of an obese man forced at gunpoint to eat until death and soon thereafter called to the scene of a deceased defense attorney forced to remove a pound of flesh from his own body. It's not long until Somerset and Mills realize that they're up against a malicious killer who's murdering individuals he deems guilty of committing one of the seven deadly sins -- gluttony, envy, lust, pride, sloth, greed, and wrath -- around the city. The killer is leaving behind subtle clues and making it known that the violence is not without purpose but is instead framed within the context of bringing attention to the decay and ugliness of the city and its people. What begins as a routine investigation becomes an all-absorbing search for answers in the remains of grisly murder scenes that promise only to draw the detectives deeper into the world of a killer who seems to believe he's operating under the auspices of a higher purpose.
Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention.
Se7en's influences in popular culture are readily visible; from Saw to Heavy Rain, Director David Fincher's picture is a model for mood and the thematic undercurrents that see characters on both sides of the law wrestle with difficult personal and moral issues that will ultimately come to define the very existences of all involved. Superficially, Se7en appears as one of cinema's most brilliantly-crafted pictures; it manages to take several cliché ingredients, including a constant rainfall and shadowy locales, and turn them into picture-defining elements without which the visual and emotional impact of the story would be greatly reduced. With Se7en, Fincher proves himself to be a cinematic force to be reckoned with in terms of his ability to so effortlessly craft a picture on mood and atmosphere alone; his eye for detail, deliberate pacing, and uncanny knack for capturing all of the elements of film noir and molding them into a stylistically classic but visually and thematically contemporary setting and story not only set Se7en apart from the crowd but have cemented the picture as an all-time classic of the cinematic medium.
We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it.
The visual structure is mighty impressive, but what helps set Se7en apart from other pictures of its kind and define the film and its story are the underlying elements of right and wrong, sin and sinner, and that fine line between proclaiming malicious justice as a virtue and treating moral, spiritual, and physical wrongdoers as innocents meant to be protected. Se7en doesn't shy away from scrutinizing that line and, in fact, its entire structure is built around its two sides. Ultimately, the story's three main characters -- the unraveled and inexperienced would-be do-gooder; the crazed killer who butchers in the name of spiritual justice; and the film's and the audience's conscience, a man who's something of a detached observer who quietly finds pluses and minuses from both ends of the extreme -- collide in dramatically tragic fashion and stomp on and erase from existence that line, replacing it with base instincts that show that both the best and worst of intentions, actions, and feelings can and often do supersede the rational elements that supposedly make man the superior species, regardless of which side of that line each individual ultimately settles. Perhaps what Se7en is saying is that it's not man's place to weed out wrongdoers, no matter one's perspective, side of the law, or underlying intentions. In Se7en, the act of combating evil only creates more evil, and the result is a world that seems perpetually destined to the doom and gloom from which both the protagonists and the antagonists wish to free it.
The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for. I agree with the second part.
Rounding out the picture into a pitch-perfect masterpiece are several Oscar-worthy performances from three of the 90's top stars; Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Spacey are nothing short of mind-bogglingly brilliant in Se7en, with Freeman delivering a powerhouse performance of the subdued. No doubt Se7en is Freeman's picture; his character is the film's moral and intellectual center who finds a physical and emotional balance between two extremes and sees the events unfold from the perspective of both the law and the civilian doling out his own brand of godly wrath. Freeman's character is strongly written and performed even better with the actor unearthing all of the subtleties and nuances that make Somerset the film's most fascinating, but also most ironic, character. Somerset sees the world much in the same was as the film's antagonist views it; he sees a decayed, hopeless environment from which he's chosen to escape by leaving behind his home and career, even if the city's all he's known and his career what he was seemingly born to do. Considering the picture's honest look into Somerset's life, one can't help but believe that he agrees with the antagonist's points -- to an extent -- illustrated by Freeman's effort in a crucial scene as he observes a back-and-forth exchange between Mills and the killer in the final act and framed marvelously by David Fincher who simply allows Freeman's delicate facial expressions to capture the character's depth to a level more strongly realized here than in any other place in the picture. Spacey makes up for his character's limited screen time with an effort that's a match for Freeman's; Spacey thoroughly convinces the audience of his character's reasonings and beliefs, and his ability to transform into the character and play such a complex and emotionally challenging part with aplomb should have been recognized with a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Pitt, too, turns in one of the best efforts of his career as an unbalanced but committed detective who plays a central role in the story, the actor proving here that he's more versatile than his magazine-cover good looks might otherwise suggest.
Se7en Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Brothers delivers Se7en to Blu-ray with a fantastically filmic 1080p transfer that dazzles through every shadowy detail and and low-light environment that define the bulk of the film. Blacks are critical to Se7en, and this first-class Blu-ray transfer handles them to perfection, seeing the film's every dark corner brought to gloriously rich and absorbing life with exemplary shadow detail and black levels that never appear too gray or in any way unnatural. Clarity is striking throughout the image, too, even through the dense shadows and low-light conditions that populate the picture. Detail -- such as lines in faces and the texture of clothing -- is scrumptious insofar as objects are visible, though detail never flounders even under the darkest of conditions. Colors are muted and not at all vibrant, but they follow the film's intended visual style; Warner Brothers' Blu-ray release captures every hue as it was meant to be seen. Flesh tones are generally stable though a few scenes see characters taking on a slightly orange appearance. Additionally, slight banding a few halos around objects offset against brighter backdrops are visible, but neither seem like much cause for alarm in the grand scheme of the transfer. Se7en retains a handsome layer of film grain and appears free of malicious digital scrubbing. All told, Se7en represents one of the most natural, absorbing, and breathtakingly filmic transfers available on Blu-ray.
Se7en Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Se7en's wonderfully absorbing DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless audio soundtrack delivers a full-on sonic assault. Whether the picture's relentlessly rainy atmospherics that create a seamless sense of immersion or the sounds of the city that bring the picture's unnamed but certainly lively setting to vivid life, Warner Brothers' soundtrack delivers nonstop ambience that's second-to-none. If there's a fault to be found with the track's unusually aggressive atmospherics, it's that dialogue is sometimes somewhat difficult to make out when competing with the most dominant of elements, though such is the case with only a handful of scenes. Additionally, Se7en features a prolific low end that devastates the listening area; anything not bolted down is prone to toppling over or scooting off a shelf, and while the track's bass isn't as tight and natural as that found on the absolute best soundtracks, its sheer force nicely supports the picture's heavy, industrial, raw sound. Music is equally potent with a prominent rear-channel element, and like the low end, it lacks in absolute clarity but delivers an as-intended rough and powerful sonic experience. Various gunshots are delivered with a dangerously convincing force, and other action-oriented scenes, like much of the rest of the track, seem to spill from every corner of the listening area but with strongly-realized precision and power. Se7en's might not be the most naturally-engulfing or pristinely-realized soundtrack out there, but Warner Brothers' lossless presentation seems quite faithful to the source and delivers a one-of-a-kind listening experience.