Despite only being David Fincher’s second feature length film, I would state ‘Se7en’ (1995) to be his most definitive film, one that also proved to be his breakthrough feature, and till date, twenty-five years after its release, is recognised as such. Yes, ‘Fight Club’ came out four years later as well, and I deliberately refrained from stating it in that capacity. It sure can be termed Fincher’s most iconic film, but the most definitive Fincher film? That has to be this by a long shot. He has made atleast five excellent thrillers following Se7en, and while some of those got really close, none has been able to topple the relentless suspense, nerve-racking thrill and its sickening, kick in the gut kind of twist ending.
Twenty five years hence, now that we are almost fully acquainted with the plot and the ending, we lead an investigation into understanding the seven sins and their embodiments better, the significance of the twist ending, and how the seventh sin was completed. However, that is kind of the deal with writing about iconic movies. It feels like an exercise in futility because what more can one say about something that already has monuments built to its name? Regardless, that is not going to stop us from trying to shed light on one of the most iconic films of the 90s, and among the best thrillers ever made, wherein Se7en would rank closely among the top ranks. In light of that, rather than taking the conventional route of the entire plot being explained, we attempt to break it down with respect to the seven cardinal sins and how they were committed, narrowing on the MO of one Jon Doe. Read on.
Summary of the Plot
In an unnamed city, detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) who is soon set to retire and presumably knows all the rules of the game is paired with hot-headed detective David Mills (Brad Pitt), who has also just moved to the city with his wife. The two are immediately put to a case, the details of which we will list later, but one that points to a possible case of serial killing, and not random, unassuming homicide. As the crimes progress, one for each day, conspiring over a period of seven days, which is also the time left for det. Somerset to serve on the force, the modus operandi of the murders as being related to the seven cardinal sins as listed in the Biblical texts becomes clear.
As the two detectives, vastly different in their worlds and methods, continue their investigation, they learn more about each other’s personal lives and meld into working as partners, trying to get the gist of the bizarre nature of the crime and the sheer brutality of it. Meanwhile, Mills’ wife Tracy is extremely dissatisfied about the couple having moved to a new, unknown city, and feels fearful for their future. As the Mills family and Somerset grow closer, the latter even being invited to have dinner over at the Mills’ place, Tracy confides in Somerset that she was pregnant and felt that the city was not a place to raise a kid, being increasingly put off by the crime and the grim happenings in the city. She is advised by Somerset on this matter who tells him that she should only tell Mills if she plans on having the baby. With this in the background, the murders grow more gruesome, and the two detectives get involved with more personal stakes than they had imagined or asked for.
Following the fifth murder, the killer, John Doe walks in and surrenders, allowing himself to be taken in for his crimes. With the motif now clear, he offers to bring the detectives to the final two victims, upon a certain set of conditions being met. The two reluctantly agree, and drive to a remote location in the desert, where the rest of the devastating finale follows. Interestingly enough, John Doe is usually the name given to a character when his actual name is not to be revealed. In consonance, the grim city where the murders are staged is also never mentioned by name. Could the writer be telling us something? Just something to think about.