Seven is one of my most favorite physiological thrillers ever. I remember when I first watched it, for lack of a better term, how freaked out I was. I sat there thinking about how anybody could do something like this to another person. Did John Doe believe he was better than the people he tortured and killed?
First of all, I love the differences between Somerset and Mills. Mills comes off as this hard-hitting detective, and he doesn’t take no for an answer. He is brash and tends to bend the rules, but his heart is in the right place. He wants to make a difference, and he thinks he can. A prime example of this occurring was after John Doe shot at them and almost kills Mills. They return to John Doe’s apartment and Mills breaks down the door. Now they did not have probable cause even to be there. So Mills pays a homeless woman to lie so they can use the evidence they find in John Doe’s apartment. The part at the end of that scene was him telling her to take care of herself and make sure she got something to eat. Mills still has a dream that what he does matters and he can take on the forces of evil.
Then there’s Somerset. He is at the end of his career. But, he can see what will happen to Mills if he stays in the inner city and takes on this case. Somerset is a thinker. He gets inside the head of the killer, but he has no delusion that what he does doesn’t make as big of a difference as what Mills wants. Without the help of Somerset Mills would not have solved the case. I think if Somerset had washed his hands of the whole thing, Mills would have been killed by John Doe.
Now, let’s look at John Doe. John Doe is an interesting character. He believes what he is doing is right and that it will make a difference. John Doe almost comes off having a messiah complex. This is evident by the sparse living quarters and all the red crosses around his apartment. He even goes so far as to admit that he has sinned when he envies what Mills has. There is some part of John Doe that wants to know what it is like to be normal and not the person delivering a message to the world. But, John Doe can’t. He does not think like everyone else or even acts like what we would consider an average person. John Doe can emulate an ordinary person, but he can never be an average everyday person. There is a disconnect somewhere in his mind that makes it impossible.
These three characters are so diverse that when they come together the dynamic is enormous. It’s like playing a game of chess. Somerset is ever the calm and collective person in this movie. He is what keeps Mills in check until the very end. In some ways, Somerset is just as calculating as John Doe. Somerset is the one who sees the connection with the seven deadly sins. He is the one who finds the information that helps Mills to understand John Doe. If this had just been Somerset versus John Doe, it would have been a very different movie. The question would be who would win and who would be dead at the end.
I think the way these characters interacted drove the plot of this movie forward. There was a conflict between the detectives and then them against the killer. This cat and mouse game had a gruesome ending. John Doe played this game like a finely tuned fiddle. He was always one step ahead of the detectives. I don’t think that the movie would have worked if Mills had not killed John Doe at the end. There would have been a bit of a let down if there was not that one thing to push Mills over the edge. When Mills finds out that his wife has been murdered along with their unborn child, it is checkmate. Mills cannot process he cannot believe that the world he is trying to make better could have this happen.
This movie is one for the books. It has compelling characters that are believable, and I think that is what makes this movie so scary. There are people out there that are just like Mills and Somerset trying to fight the good fight. Then there are people just like John Doe out there working to deliver what they believe is a message through the cruelest way possible.