"This isn't going to have a happy ending."

Yesterday Roger Ebert made his case for Se7en (imdb | rotten tomatoes) to be designated a great movie. There was a question? It’s been one of my all-time favourites pretty much from the day I saw it, but Ebert — naturally — does a much better job of describing why it’s great than I ever could. He made me remember all the things I love about it. Sure, the obvious elements like acting and script are there, but it’s little things, side things, nuances, style. Things like:

  • R. Lee Ermey, who had auditioned to play John Doe but instead wound up playing the captain, and thank god. He’s amazing, and the lone spot of levity* in the film: “Wake up, limber twins!” and “This isn’t even my desk!”
  • Mills is a terrible dresser, because of course he is. He’s just moved from a small town and has no money and so his ties don’t match and his jackets and pants are old. It would have been easy for Brad Pitt to insist on looking dapper for the movie, but I’m glad he didn’t.
  • The way Mills tells his impromptu tipster “You eat something. You eat.” with all the hopefulness of a cop who hasn’t spent much time around crack addicts.
  • The way John Doe says “Detective…detective…DETECTIVE!!!!!!” and the ~20 seconds that follow.

I’m watching it again as I type this, and I actually saw something new. Something I’d never noticed in the dozens of times I’ve watched it. In the dinner scene in the Mills’ apartment, when Somerset asks Mills for a glass of wine Mills bring about a quart of it in a highball glass. Somerset is engrossed in the case file and doesn’t pay attention until a passing subway makes everything shake; when he reaches for his wine to keep it from spilling, he realizes what kind of glass Mills has brought him. His expression makes a perfect transition from “What the hell?” to “Sweet Jesus, this kid is an idiot.” in the space of about a second. It’s brilliant.

The whole film, goddamned all of it. Brilliant.

* Except for one line from Mills: “Heeeeee’s aaaaaaa nutbag. Just ’cause the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda.”

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