Seven – Film

I saw Seven right around the time I was first becoming obsessed with Thomas Harris and Hannibal Lecter. My friend saw how fascinated I was becoming with serial killer movies and got me the DVD for my birthday. Unfortunately, my reaction to it was very similar to my first reading of Red Dragon. I can’t exactly remember why, but I recall feeling disappointed with the film. My guess is that it wasn’t what I had been expecting. Most of the books we’ve read and films we’ve watched for this class, and most books and films in general, have some sort of resolution to them. We learn in grade school English a not entirely accurate version of story arc and resolution is always at the end. Society generally wants at least some sort of closure by the end of the story. Seven doesn’t exactly have that, or at least not in the way we’re used to.

There isn’t any contentment for our two heroes, David Mills and William Somerset, at the end of the film. Instead, it appears that our psycho is the one who ultimately gets what he wants: the completion of his grand, murderous project of exposing the endless sinners of the world and making them face those sins. Mills ends up getting arrested, more than likely losing his job, and, most importantly, losing his wife, child, and the life he’d achieved and appeared to be quite happy with. If Detective Somerset had any sort of hope left for the world, and I’m assuming it was minimal to begin with as he was days away from retirement, it was all but completely destroyed. Because the heroes’ efforts and sacrifices appeared to be for nothing by the end, Seven didn’t have that satisfaction audiences are often accustomed to. It was different. Too different for a fifteen-year-old me. But an awesome standout for a twenty-three-year-old me.

I found that I loved Seven this time around. I hadn’t seen it since that first time and was able to gain enough distance from it to go into it with a fresh perspective.

The dynamic between Mills and Somerset, the somewhat newbie an the almost retired, held some of the more interesting scenes. Mills’ naiveté when it comes to simply labeling John Doe as an unpredictable psycho was consistently pointed out by Somerset, and at the end by John Doe himself. It made me question how I would label John Doe, and whether or not labeling him was that simple. I think what Mills was ultimately lacking was the will to put himself in John Doe’s place and trying to understand the purpose behind what he was doing. This becomes most apparent in that final drive to the desert, when Mills is consistently calling him crazy and Somerset is more reserved, asking questions instead of making assumptions.

As always, Kevin Spacey killed it as John Doe, and I wanted to sing his praises for just a brief moment (even if he doesn’t need it). John Doe was an excellent psycho. He was alarmingly intelligent and creative with his murders, and although he wasn’t necessarily a new type of psycho, he definitely brought about a chill in my soul. Much of my favorite and most memorable content has this very same effect.

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3 thoughts on “Seven – Film

  1. I love that you bring up the lack of a clean resolution. Audiences are accustomed to getting a solid ending. Every crime show on TV from Bones to CSI to Criminal Minds wraps up each episode with a tidy bow before the credits roll. If they don’t, we know that killer is going to come back later and try to kill one of our heroes, and that episode will give us our resolution.
    I think there are times when an uncertain or unfinished ending is appropriate. There is a bleakness to Seven that mirrors the darkness that can be found in real life. In real life, murders can go unsolved, or as in this case, the killer may be caught be he still wins. John Doe did get what he wanted. He didn’t seem all that concerned with going to prison, probably because he knew Mills wouldn’t be able to let him live. It’s crafty how he lured Mills and Somerset out into a field, away from backup. He knew what would come after the delivery of the box.

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  2. I think it’s safe to say the ending of Seven is the biggest topic of conversation regarding the film. I’ve actually gotten into arguments about this one with friends before. My perspective that there is a clear resolution and the story wraps up, it’s just not the happy ending audiences expect. If you think about it, the story is really about John Doe’s completed “masterpiece,” not about the detectives stopping him. I’m a fan of urban legends, and this ending falls in line with the story arc of those verbal tales. It’s not a scary urban legend if the killer/monster/ghost is defeated in the end. What’s scary about those tales is that the evil is in charge. Either it wins or it is still out there waiting to strike again. If you were sitting around a campfire, hearing about how this creepy guy killed people to represent all seven deadly sins, including tricking a cop at the end, people wouldn’t blink at the ending. Just food for thought.

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