23 October 2012

Seven (1995)

Morgan Freeman, left, and Brad Pitt are shown in a scene from "Seven."

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light."

In "Seven" (1995), serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who chooses his victims based on the Seven Deadly Sins, leaves behind the quote from John Milton's "Paradise Lost" at a crime scene. Director David Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker spend the entirety of the film showing us just how long and hard that way is, carrying out an unrelenting examination of the evil that may or may not be festering inside every one of us.

Make no mistake: "Seven" is a bleak, unsettling picture, its setting a purposely unnamed metropolis where the only variation in the weather is the strength of the endless downpour; its antagonist left to plot and carry out his grisly work off-screen for the first 90 minutes (to maintain his anonymity, Spacey's name isn't in the opening titles); its protagonists doing little more than recording and cataloging the horrific scenes he leaves behind.

Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is at the end of the line. He's seen too much of this urban nightmare, and in exactly one week, he'll be retired, somewhere "far away from here." Enter his replacement: young Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt), recently relocated with his wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), from "upstate." While Somerset is weary and cynical, Mills is eager and optimistic that doing his job will make a real difference.

The seven days chronicled change both men in profound ways.

12 October 2012


Ben Affleck is shown in a scene from "Argo."

Three films and three home runs for Ben Affleck the director.

From "Gone Baby Gone" (2007) to "The Town" (2010) to his latest, "Argo," he's steadily raised the stakes and widened his scope, this time leaving his native Boston behind and delivering his first true crowd-pleaser.

The meticulously crafted "Argo" seamlessly blends elements of the thriller, political drama, heist movie and comedy, with none of those disparate elements undermining any of the others. It's based on one of those real-life stories most probably would think is preposterous if it came solely from the mind of a Hollywood screenwriter.

In 1979, during the Iranian Revolution, Islamic militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. Six Americans escape and find refuge at the home of Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), the Canadian ambassador to Iran. They're safe there, but for how long? The Iranians aren't letting Americans out of the country, and they have kids hard at work reassembling shredded files at the embassy. It's only a matter of time until they discover six people are missing.