Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Favorite Scene: Se7en

David Fincher’s flawless crime masterpiece, Se7en, is filled with many a thrilling sequence. The revelatory chase through the crummy apartment complex, the cross-cutting police interrogation of the sleazy porn dungeon owner and its remarkably disturbed client, the discovery of what hundreds of air fresheners are concealing, the “WHAT WAS IN THE BOX WHAT WAS IN THE BOOOX?!”, the reveal of John Doe and his bloodied fingers, and on and on.

But, for me, the film produces no better, more effective thrill than when Detectives David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) discover the clue hidden behind Doe’s GREED killing.

“Clue” may not be accurate. More like tease, or ultimate fuck with. A brilliant, Hey, I’m smarter than you, catch me if you can.
To backtrack. After Somerset convinces Mills and their superior that they have a nutjob killing people according to the seven deadly sins, Mills hesitantly embraces Somerset’s intellect by inviting him to help solve the case. Several thoroughly detailed, and wholly essential sequences take place (because really, there’s nothing shown in Se7en that isn’t necessary for something later in the film), before Somerset and Mills realize that something is off about the GREED murder, in which a crooked lawyer was stabbed to death in his fancy office.

The detectives eventually show the lawyer’s grieving wife photos from the crime scene (in which the gory details of her husband’s newly deceased body are amusingly covered in Post-It notes), and she soon spots an abstract painting on the wall hanging upside down. Mills and Somerset go to the lawyer’s office and take the painting off the wall. Nothing. They set it on the ground and examine the back of the artwork. Nothing. Somerset removes the brown paper from the back of the painting. Nothing. “There, must, be, something,”  Somerset quietly mummers. Mills makes jokes of frustration, angered by the killer’s obvious enjoyment. Somerset jumps on the table below where the painting hung, he gets out a pocket-sized fingerprint kit, and then it all clicks.
We brilliantly, historically, exceptionally jump cut from Freeman’s inquisitive face to the same wall in extreme close-up, brightened by neon blue lights. A lab tech blows white powder away with a can of air. “Oh…man,” the tech says.

We cut to Pitt and Freeman, who are staring at the wall from a few feet away. Pitt turns away, framing the shot in a Persona-esque two-shot. And then we’re privy to the very best line deliveries of both Pitt and Freeman’s careers.

“Honestly,” Pitt whispers, “Have you ever seen anything like this?” The camera pulls focus to Freeman, and after the briefest of moments, Freeman offers a stunning, “No.”
Pitt looks back at the wall, and all is revealed – HELP ME has been crudely written with fingerprints (which aren’t even the lawyer’s, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

I was 12 the first time I saw Se7en, and up until this point in the film, I was convinced that I was watching a glorified episode of Law and Order. But when this scene occurred (which, if I haven’t made myself clear, is arguably the smartest sequence I’ve ever seen in a police procedural film), I knew I was in for something different; something that had no interest in cutting corners or making things easy for its audience.

I love Brad Pitt and I love Morgan Freeman, but their respective performances in Se7en have yet to be met by anything else they’ve done. This scene, I feel, is reason enough for that argument. 

Other installments of My Favorite Scene include:

18 comments:

  1. Brilliant write-up. I continues to amaze me just how fantastic Se7en is. For a film to include a scene of gripping police procedural like this, a flat out terrifying scene (Sloth), one of the best foot pursuits I have ever seen - and I think that apartment/street chase is my favourite scene ever - and still offer up such an awesome twist at the end, is pretty extraordinary. Another great 'Favourite Scene' instalment, this time from my #2 favourite film.

    Fincher's best film? Yeah, I'd say - but how great was The Social Network? Even lesser Fincher (Dragon Tat this year) are still phenomenal cinema.

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  2. Brilliant scene! I also love the quote "The voices made me do it. My dog made me do it. Jodie Foster told me to do it." which I believe appears somewhere around that scene. Se7en is so incredible, basically a 2 hour long streak of amazing sequences.

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  3. My favorite scene in Seven is when the train is heard in the apartment, the oddness and humour of the moment amuses me.

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  4. @Andy BuckleThanks man, I knew you really loved Se7en, so I was curious to hear your favorite scenes in the flick. The chase is just so good. Utterly flawless. And yeah, I definitely think Se7en is Fincher's best flick. He always churns out great stuff, but nothing tops this.

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  5. @Sati. Totally agree. Pitt's humor in the film is so overlooked, but it is always spot on. Another great line: "It'd be great if we didn't start out kicking each other in the balls."

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  6. @Chris Great scene, rarely do we see Freeman laugh that hard. It's kind of refreshing. Glad you like the movie!

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  7. This movie is so brilliantly disturbing...... the Sloth scene actually made me scream if I recall correctly. The films climax is probably one of the most memorable in cinema for me.....
    ....I think I need to rewatch this one now!

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  8. Brilliant write-up, very convincing. I love the simple pleasures of when Doe walks in to the station and yells 'Detectiiiiive' with his bloody hands in the air. And the conversation between the three in the car on the way to the finale. You're a movie of the week... a t-shirt at best!

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  9. @Ruth The first time I saw this movie...that Sloth scene...when that fucker jumped.

    I about died.

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  10. @Pete Thanks man! Doesn't Spacey just kill it in this role? The way he gets so pissed in the backseat for Mills NOT understanding why the murders are justified. Wow.

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  11. Se7en is one of my all-time favorites, but I haven't seen it in such a long time, maybe I should really revise it soon! Great write-up!

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  12. @Diana Thanks Diana! Se7en is one of those movies that, no matter how disturbing, I can watch again and again, anytime, in any mood. Love it.

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  13. Great scene from a movie filled with great scenes. It's an obvious choice, but my favorite part is probably the "What's in the BOOOOOOXXXX??!!?" scene, simply because of the tension and curiosity that it builds for me. Whenever Freeman looks in the box and says to the officers in the chopper "Whatever you hear, stay away! John Doe has the upper hand!" I'm just completely enthralled.

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  14. @Robert And that gasp he lets out right as he opens the flaps of the box... what chills that gives me. Great, great scene.

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  15. I keep hearing about that horrible sequel they wanted to do - Ei8ht. Cracked wrote about it recently. Man that would have been a weird movie.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19751_6-insane-sequels-that-almost-ruined-classic-movies.html

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  16. @Robert Holy god, that sounds awful. Jesus I'm glad that didn't happen.

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  17. I think the only problem with your blog is when an entry makes me think, "Dang, I should rewatch that," and my to watch list grows. There are too many I haven't seen yet. Stop it! ;)

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    Replies
    1. Haha sorry man! There's never NOT a good time to watch Se7en.

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