Friday, July 9, 2010


I don't claim to know why genre conventions have evolved as they have over a hundred years of cinema. The two cops which are opposites, serial killers, all the conventions that have sprung up over the years for crime-based films and I've got no idea why they exist. Still, at this point they've become so well known that they become a reference point for something completely apart from a cliche. Se7en is an example of this, a taut disturbing thriller grounded in genre conventions which everyone knows and loves.

I mean, we've got the typical standards here. Morgan Freeman plays a cop who is too old for shit, especially this shit. Brad Pitt is a passionate upstart who lets his emotions run wild. Together, they fight crime, and a serial killer who models his murders on the seven deadly sins. Seen this before? Yes, you have, though perhaps not the seven deadly sins part, and it actually is strangely comforting as the movie starts. Here's something familiar, something tangible that we can identify with after years of movies doing the same thing.

Then it takes a wild turn for the messed up zone, and thank the lord for that.

By basing the movie around two characters which could easily collapse into cliche it becomes a little bit more disturbing overall. The familiar sights are combined with something completely different and more than a little disconcerting, and it's filmed in a moody, tense way which is a complete departure from a typical police film. There is something familiar in the mix, and that makes the content itself more disturbing, and the ultimate conclusion significantly more shocking.

See, what it does is take something we know, love, expect and appreciate and turns it on its head. It's almost a commentary on film cliches in a way, as it takes the most predictable of genres and makes a film that is as unpredictable as you can get, and which goes in directions which nobody can anticipate. It takes cornerstones of enjoyable fiction and turns them in on themselves, a clever and engaging move.

A good film will go somewhere you won't expect, even if that direction makes complete sense as you go through the story. This does that, and for that it has to be one of the best intense thrillers that you will ever find. It's likely not far from the truth that this film made David Fincher's career, and considering the unique, varied and often dark directions he's taken, it's a career we can be grateful for.