David Fincher is at his best when he’s crafting detailed, intricate cat-and-mouse games like those in The Game and Zodiac. But first, there was Seven (or Se7en, if you prefer, although that alternate spelling is, and always has been, kind of asinine).
Seven puts the obsessive and utterly precise tendencies of Fincher to good use in a portrait of a killer who is quite the precise workman himself, creating crime scenes to replicate the biblical seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony, but not necessarily in that order.
Fincher gets good character work out of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as a retiring cop and the young upstart looking to fill his shoes, respectively, but this isn’t really a film about police work or even the relationships forged between partners. Rather, it’s a macabre study of the depths of human nature — there’s no denying the film is utterly fascinated with the loathsome and depraved.
Then there’s the contrast that Fincher draws between the magnanimous horror of the crimes and the perpetrator himself. (Spoilers ahead, I guess, although the statute of limitations on this kind of thing has to end sometime.) Kevin Spacey is his usual cool, collected self as the John Doe killer, operating with what appears to be utter rationality and composure. It’s the cops, especially Pitt’s Detective Mills, who lack these traits.
The sum effect of the film is like something awful that you just can’t avert your eyes from. Fincher doesn’t ever let up, from the dreary and oppressive set design of the unnamed metropolitan area to the utterly black conclusion. Fincher has a knack for taking material that the mainstream would shudder at, and turning it into a big-budget Hollywood production. Nowhere is that more evident than in Seven.
The Blu-ray Disc
Seven is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. I hadn’t seen the film since its first DVD release, which was such an early example of the format, it had to be flipped over halfway through the film. The Blu-ray obviously improves on this aspect, and in all others as well. This is an effectively perfect visual presentation, with outstanding detail, sharpness and clarity. Seven is a very dark film throughout, but even the blackest scenes retain astonishing levels of detail; there’s nary a hazy moment to be found. The blacks themselves are deep and rich, and although there’s very little bright color to speak of, colors and fleshtones look superbly natural and lifelike.
The audio is presented in Dolby 7.1 DTS-HD track that’s just as impressive, with pitch-perfect front channel clarity for the dialogue and rumbling subwoofer moments when the soundtrack calls for it. Ambient sound creates a wonderful immersive environment, especially during crime scene investigations.
There aren’t any new extras here from the two-disc special edition DVD release, but it remains a solid slate of bonus material, with four audio commentaries leading the way. Likely the most popular will be Fincher, Pitt and Freeman’s, but those looking for more specific focuses will find commentaries on the production process, the visual strategy and the sound design. All commentaries feature Fincher with assorted others.
There’s a decent amount of excised footage in the deleted/extended scenes section, as well as two alternate endings — one shot and one storyboarded. More storyboards can be viewed in the examination of the opening title sequence, and production design and photographs continue the in-depth look. There’s a piece on mastering for the home theater, a closer look at John Doe’s notebooks and the theatrical trailer to round out the disc.
New to this release is the Blu-ray book packaging, which includes about 30 attractive pages of notes on the film.
The Bottom Line
Seven absolutely warrants the upgrade.