Director: David Fincher
Fincher's films often have a coolness to their tone that contrasts nicely with their often extreme and pulpy subjects. Here it aligns us with Morgan Freeman's William Somerset, weary of his job and looking forward to retirement from years in the police force. His last case has him paired with Brad Pitt's younger and more hot-tempered David Mills. While this set-up sounds cliched, the script, direction, and performances elevate the material, making it a deserved 90s classic.
Freeman is the standout for me, playing everything, even the denouement, in a low-key fashion that draws you towards his character. The man carries visible emotional pain from his past, but we never learn precisely what it is. It is hinted at in his conversation with Paltrow's Tracy, but we are left to create his history from a few comments. Pitt is also good, grappling with this twisted case as he tries to adjust to the city.
The idea of the seven deadly sins forming the theme of the serial killings is less shocking these days, as many television crime shows have followed in the footsteps of Andrew Kevin Walker's script. However, the Biblical imagery is also present in the weather of the unnamed city, the Mills' apartment, and the desert of the final showdown. It seems to be always raining in the town, torrents of water falling on the moral decay of this city. Whether it is trying to flush it away, or aids in its decay is debatable. The Mills' home is so close to a train track, so it shudders every few minutes, like an earthquake that threatens to bring their new life crashing down. The desert setting of the famous climax is a wonderful contrast to the city; dry, hot and sunny, with large electrical towers and nothing else. One can almost feel the crackling in the air as Somerset and Mills are toyed with by Doe.
A great film that has lost only a little of its impact in the last few decades (can you believe it is twenty years old!).