Even with its head-in-the-box bombshell as familiar as the tail-stings of The Empire Strikes Back, Planet Of The Apes and The Sixth Sense, Se7en still exerts a dark, crushing stranglehold on the imagination.
Watching David Fincher’s serial-killer breakthrough afresh is to be reminded of its fiendish potency – as bruising today as it was 15 years ago.
From the jittery credits sequence to the demented fetishism of its deadly-sin slayings, Fincher batters home his brutal, unflinching take on a genre that’s too often straitjacketed by stock tedium.
Even the cliches are handled with heft – Morgan Freeman’s Somerset is only seven days from retirement, assigned to one last job alongside Brad Pitt’s firebrand Mills.
“You fought for a transfer here?” Somerset demands of his hotshot counterpart, referring to a rain-drenched urban cesspit that remains shrouded in anonymity.
The weary vet’s pessimism is deep, dark, existential, just like the film’s – a mood of jaded nihilism that Fincher, Pitt et al battled hard to prevent anxious studio New Line from watering down.
Fincher’s first masterpiece (only his second film after debut Alien 3) imports its exhaustive extras from 2000’s Platinum Edition DVD.
Among the many gems are four separate commentary tracks – the self-explanatory ‘stars’, ‘story’, ‘picture’ and ‘sound’. The first comes laden with larky chatter between Pitt and Fincher, as they chuckle at ‘Gluttony’’s fibreglass-model endowment on the mortuary slab: “Poor Bob had to be in make-up for 10 hours – at least we gave him a huge cock,” sniggers Fincher.
‘Story’’s scene-by-scene scrutiny (with input from writer Andrew Kevin Walker) is a film student’s wet dream, dissecting an innovative script that tickles (“Just because the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda…”) and agitates (the final car journey is a tour de force of hypnotic foreboding). Also here are extended scenes, and storyboards for an unshot ending.
Does Blu-ray do Se7en justice? In some scenes, Pitt’s and Freeman’s no-acne-scarleft- behind complexions could serve as case studies for dermatology students, while enhanced colours leap out of the gloom.
But truth be told, any film in which flashlights are a primary source of illumination isn’t going to be brilliantly served by hi-def.
Murk and shadows are the film’s recipe for keeping us in a state of perpetual, dislocated dread and, in any medium, Se7en is a must-own – a thriller steeped in a decaying atmosphere of fear and loathing that even a filmmaker as consummate as Fincher will struggle to surpass.