Reviewed on 2008 May 17
Most people I know go for Fight Club as their favorite David Fincher movie; I liked this one better. It’s dark in every sense of the word, beginning with the opening credits that look like a Trent Reznor video and roll to a screeching mix of “Closer”. We never learn the name of the city, but it was grimy and rained so much that it made Seattle look like a tropical port of call. The only time I remember seeing the sun was at the end.
Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) is teamed with Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) to find a twisted killer, one who takes it upon himself to preach to the world by murdering people in accordance with their “sins”. The first victim is murdered for the dreaded and terrible crime of gluttony, so you know this freak has a medieval mindset and things are going to get worse with the remaining six deadlies. The other problem is that the killer is as smart as he is sick. He leaves taunting clues for the detectives, rubbing their noses in it as he picks out the next people he’s going to punish.
If the concept wasn’t grim enough, the whole movie is washed in sepia tones and low lights. Even Brad Pitt looked dirty in this thing. Between Fincher’s direction and Andrew Kevin Walker’s brilliant script, when I watched it the first time I didn’t figure out any of the surprises until they were ready to show them (and when I watched it again years later and knew what was coming it still didn’t lessen the impact). I think it works so well because the first time you’re just looking for a cushion or something to hide behind each time the cops visit a new crime scene; the second time, part of you wonders what John Doe would get you for.
Three chocolate morsels.