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Seven: Platinum Series (Disc 1)

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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted November 19, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
I think there are films where you may not "like" them, but you can appreciate them. With the subject matter, "Seven" is one of those films. I can appreciate the film's tone, texture and look; the cinematography and performances are excellent. I remember the first time seeing the film and maybe not being in the right mood, and not getting into the film, finding it slow and overly dark. I returned to it again and again now and then since I first saw the film in 1995 and began to find things that I enjoyed about the film's presentation. In the overall scheme of things, I think it was another step in the right direction for director David Fincher. Although I'm still not a fan of certain things in "The Game", I think it all adds up to "Fight Club", which turned out, in my opinion, to be the director's best work.

The original DVD presentation from New Line was one of the first DVD releases that the studio offered; the video quality was passable, but not great. Even worse was the lack of extra features and to top that, there was a side break that forced the viewer to flip the disc. There is a following for the film out there that was definitely looking for a new release, and as New Line became more of a force in the DVD industry, things began to come together to signal the possibility of a new release. At one point, Criterion looked to possibly release their laserdisc edition of the film on DVD, but that never happened. As DVD features became more and more impressive with releases like Fincher's "Fight Club", the stage was set for New Line to produce something impressive, and they really have here.

Although I will talk more about the disc's video quality in the DVD review section, this disc really goes quite far in bringing the director's original intent home to the small screen. Cinematographer Darius Khondji has done a stunning job with the film to build a cold, rainy, murky dark world from the bottom up; there is a tone and feel to the film to the point where it almost becomes a character of its own. As for the story, it revolves around Detectives Somerset(Morgan Freeman) and Mills(Brad Pitt) who find themselves in the middle of a series of murders that are based on the seven deadly sins. Mills is coming into the force ready and confident; Somerset is towards the end of his career and looking to probably retire. The most interesting thing about what Fincher has done with these two characters is to make them feel equal rather than have them be the knowing older cop teaching the younger one. Freeman's character subtly goes about collecting clues; there is a great, elegant scene where he studies at a library. Together, the two actors have good chemistry and work well off of one another. The two characters may not seem to particularly like one another, but they have a respect for one another.

The film is sometimes slow and deliberate. I originally felt that the film began to slightly drag towards the middle, but that complaint has lessened since my original viewing. The performances of Pitt and Freeman are particularly excellent, and I think that this was really the first Pitt role that sent him into more interesting and more complex roles. Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freeman. He can take any role and simply make it his own, down to the most minor detail. Also good in a supporting role is Gwyneth Paltrow. The film is disturbing and a difficult watch, but it's a smartly written and directed film that has impressive style. It's got some flaws about it, but I think that this film and other recent efforts by Fincher signal a director who really has a very big future.

VIDEO: New Line has remastered the film for this edition, and they used the original negative. Although it's been ages since I've seen the original DVD release of "Seven", a section on the second disc called "Mastering For The Home Theater" provides a multi-angle comparison between the original release's look and the new edition's look, and the differences are very impressive, with a smoother, cleaner looking image overall. Khondji's cinematography recieves full justice on this new 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer. Although I will talk more about the facinating "Mastering For Home Theater" section later on in the review, the results here are again, very impressive.

Sharpness and detail are excellent throughout the presentation, with a depth to the picture at times that is pretty remarkable. This is a bit of a grainy film now and then, but it's by intent to add to the "look" of the picture. It's appropriate and adds to the feel of the movie, never distracting at all. Although there is a tiny bit of shimmer once or twice in the image, there are no instances of pixelation. At its very best, this is really a pretty flawless representation of the intent of the director; and there have been other fixes to the image that bring it closer to what Fincher wanted.

Colors are excellent throughout (you'll find more information about the colors in the "Color Correction" section of "Mastering For The Home Theater" on disc two); the dark palette of the film is accurately reproduced here with no problems at all. I think that New Line has really, absolutely went all out to make this the ultimate edition of the movie, making sure that they have pulled out all the possibilities to make this as good as possible, and they've definitely succeeded.

SOUND: New Line has also remastered the sound (also, you can find the differences in the "remastering for home theater" section) in Dolby Digital EX and DTS 6.1 ES. Like the film's look, the audio of "Seven" is all about creating a tone and a feel. It doesn't come out agressively, although there are some intense moments. There are subtle textures to the audio, the rain pouring down and other small sounds to put you in the middle of the scene, such as the echo of footsteps in a scene or two. A few not so subtle sounds also are presented well, such as the rattle of the subway outside the apartment about 35 minutes into the movie. Surrounds are used effectively for either effects or the film's score.

Howard Shore's score is excellent, providing a eerie tone to the picture, and also becoming elegant and haunting at times. The film can become very quiet at times, and I think that really adds to the terror of the movie, rather than having the audio scream at you suddenly like some films choose to do to scare the audience, there is a quiet at times in "Seven" that is uncomfortable and brings that feeling that something is soon going to break that silence, even if maybe, for that time, nothing will.

Both the Dolby Digital and DTS versions are very enjoyable, although the DTS version offers noticably improved detail and clarity, and seems richer and more enveloping overall. Last, but not least, dialogue seems natural and is very clear and easily heard. The film's audio is not highly agressive, but still very effective.

MENUS:: Although the menus aren't agressive in terms of offering animation or other similar looks, they are detailed in their look, taking film-themed images and using them to create very creepy looking backgrounds. The opening menus have eerie sound in the backgrounds in Dolby Digital 5.1.


Commentaries: Like with David Fincher's "Fight Club" DVD, New Line has provided four commentary tracks for this DVD, but they've taken the idea one step further by having each commentary mostly deal with a specific element of the movie.

Commentary One: "The Stars" is a commentary from director David Fincher as well as actors Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. This is Pitt's 3rd commentary of the year, and he really is able to provide a very insightful viewpoint to the film's he's been involved with, and also, he talks well back and forth with director David Fincher, who he also joined for the commentary for "Fight Club". The treat here, although he doesn't provide a full-length commentary and is recorded separately, is Morgan Freeman, who is fascinating to listen to as he talks about his performance and his career, sharing his opinions on the character and the film when Pitt and Fincher aren't talking. There are some moments of humor occasionally, as Pitt and Fincher have a few jokes having to do with the stories from the set.

Mainly, the commentary with Fincher and Pitt revolves around the two sitting back and remembering their experiences during the production, talking about their thoughts of the subject matter and hwo they went about building the story. Freeman's commentary makes me hope that he will record more commentary tracks in the future. He has a way of speaking that, in a matter of a few sentences, can communicate volumes about his style and way of working.

Commentary Two: "The Story" is a commentary from Professor of Film Studies/Author Richard Dyer, Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, Editor Richard Francis-Bruce, President Of Production at New Line Michael De Luca and Director David Fincher. Dyer is the host of the commentary track and gives the viewer the information about what the track will go over at the begining, with the story structure, images and subject matter. With all of the people involved with this commentary, there is certainly hardly ever a pause throughout the track, and most of it proves to be very, very interesting. As the story has been told quite a few times before, Walker was unhappy working in New York City while writing the picture and during the track, he provides details about the inspirations and thoughts about the subject matter.

De Luca also provides an interesting viewpoint in terms of how the studio saw the picture. It's an interesting perspective that we don't hear from enough. Similar to Fincher, De Luca talks about the way he felt originally about the screenplay and the subject matter. Fincher also contributes a lot to this commentary track, talking about the history of the production, from his original thoughts about the screenplay and the first draft which he went after. I found all of the people who contribute to this track really had some fascinating analysis of the final product, and learned a remarkable amount of information from listening to this commentary. The track is both a history of how the story was made into a film and also, an analysis. Both sides are very interesting to listen to, and this is a well-organized track that is highly recommended to listen to.

Commentary Three: "The Picture" is a commentary from Richard Dyer, director David Fincher, editor Richard Francis-Bruce, Cinematographer Darius Khondji and Production Designer Arthur Max. As I mentioned in the review of the film, the look, tone, feel and texture of the movie is so detailed and defined that it almost takes on a life of its own. This commentary brings together those who were responsible for giving seven its look, and they provide a sometimes technical talk about the process and preparation of giving the images of "Seven" the kind of tone they do have.

Khondji's viewpoints provide a remarkably fascinating look at his way of working, which is interesting to hear as I consider him to be one of the most skilled cinematographers out there. To hear how he went about creating the look of the film will be particularly interesting to film students. There is also a lot of great tidbits about the film's production design included on this track as well. I found this to be, again, a very interesting commentary track, although it's a track that some may find a bit dry.

Commentary Four: This is "The Sound", featuring comments by Richard Dyer, David Fincher, Composer Howard Shore and Sound Designer Ren Klyce. When the commentary is not going, the isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1 is playing. As someone who is very much fascinated with the use of audio in a film, I was particularly looking forward to hearing this track. Dyer provides the analysis of the sound, and how it adds to the atmosphere and texture of the environment.

I found Klyce fascinating to listen to, as he talks about his way of creating a subtle tone and atmosphere with the film's audio. Early on in the track he mentions creating a "story" behind sounds, which is very cool. Most of this track provides a stage for the viewer to appreciate the score of the movie as it plays out, but when the participants do talk, I found their comments to be very interesting as we learn more about the role that sound plays in the film.


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