29 March 2002 | bob the moo
Simply one of the darkest and best thrillers of the 1990's but don't let anyone spoil it for you.....
`Days from retirement' Detective Somerset is teamed with new-to-the-city Detective Mills to investigate a murder that quickly becomes a series. Somerset realises that the killer must be smart and is using classic literature to model his killings on the seven deadly sins, however Mills finds to hard to see him as anything other than a crazy man. With the killer close to completing his work, Mills and Somerset begin to close in on him. However nothing is as it seems in a dark depressing city full of moral degradation and apathy.
When David Fincher came onto the scene with his debut feature Alien3 the world only paused to scorn a film that didn't fit in with the Alien franchise. Yes it wasn't a great film but I loved the sense of mood, the dark the tension in the shadows that Fincher created. Years later we have Se7en, Fight Club, The Game, and at people are getting Fincher!
Se7en was his major break through where his dark visions also reaped box-office gold. The story doesn't sound like much mismatched partners (one young, cocky and reckless the other a few days from retirement) go after a serial killer who is carrying out a series of twisted murders
..it sounds like Lethal Weapon meets a straight to video thriller. But happily it rises above that by so much it's unbelievable
.it certainly shows how a story put in good hands can work out. From the start we are entombed in mood the city where it always rains, the uncaring people etc. The we begin to find murders but Fincher doesn't show us the murders, he lets us see the aftermath in the shadows and lets us imagine the rest Genius!
What you don't see is more gory than what you do. Meanwhile the tension is cranked up to fever pitch as the race to catch the killer is accelerated. When we meet the killer, the film just gets better
right up to an ending that is simply one of the most logical, emotional and gripping endings I've ever seen. I promise you'll leave the cinema shell shocked.
Freeman is excellent as Somerset so good that it's a role he's tried to do again in `Kiss the girls' etc. But here he is the perfect foil for both Mills and the killer. Brad Pitt is also superb....he isn't allowed to trade on his looks here and does very well in a film that has little opportunity for him to pander to his female fans he spends a lot of it looking beaten up. Paltrow is OK with what she has but this isn't really a film that focuses on female roles. R. Lee Ermey is as good as ever and it's a sign of how good the cast is that actors of the stature of Charles Dutton and John C McGinley are basically in roles that barely count as cameos.
However the best performance is from Kevin Spacey in the years before he became an Oscar lovie and stopped doing bad guys or dark characters. He is only on screen for a small portion of the film but his dialogue is superb and he delivers it faultlessly. In the scene where he shares a car ride with Mills and Somerset you literally hang on his every word. However alongside Spacey Fincher stands triumphant with his dark vision given the perfect story and perfect actors.
At heart this is a cop thriller but excellent performances, excellent mood and a moral lesson from an excellent Spacey make this quite simply the most jaw-droppingly excellent thriller of the 1990's.