It would be dishonest of me to claim that my recent experience of this movie was that of a masterpiece, a label I've placed on it for years. It felt more as an academic exercise, the kind that movie students would be 'forced' to consume, in order to make notes on various elements (and there are many notable ones).
One minor gripe I've had with the movie is that it lacks superb acting. Morgan Freeman is as boring as usual with a standard performance which isn't really better than that of Brad Pitt. Kevin Spacey, although much better than the two, doesn't go anywhere near what he's capable of. As for others, it mainly is nothing outstanding, but Gwyneth Paltrow is without any noticeable flaw, and is sweeter here than anywhere else in her career.
One other gripe I've not been satisfied with for a while is the lack of justification of the Envy crime. I also found the scenes with Brad Pitt's beloved wife forced into the story (and boring too), and a cheap manipulation used only to serve the ending. I also never liked the chase scene, not due its execution (David Fincher is the best movie director who ever lived, duh!), but because the movie isn't escapist material, and the chase scene simply doesn't suit it, a fact made worse by its being too long. One other complaint is that the conversations seem mere quick pepperings over some important philosophical issues. I do understand that time is limited, but every time I watch the all-important scene with John Doe sitting behind in a police car, I wish the conversation would be longer. It was way too interesting to be kept that short. Sure it's handled very well (excellent editing, and camerawork), but the cops should really have been more curious, especially Somerset.
And given all that negativity, it doesn't mean all's lost. The movie remains the best detective movie I've seen yet. The cinematography isn't bad, but the production design is really top-class. The attention to detail is lovely, but I've seen better.
Rich and well-crafted as it is, the movie has a rather shallow and small world. Nothing else exists. That could be seen as a strength of course, for I suppose a great movie is one that can really absorb you, allowing you to drown in its 'reality'. Perhaps I was just hungry for a far richer and complex world offered by a number of superb movies I have been drowning in the last fews years.
The following are among my favorite moments:
- An early scene where an uninterested detective questions the investigative approach of Somerset (Morgan Freeman) regarding the first murder, where there's blood splattered on the dirty window. The memory of this moment, complete with its sombre atmosphere, incites the sort of excitement that is only reserved for when I'm in love, romantic or otherwise.
- A later scene where Mills (Brad Pitt) is withstanding heavy rain near a murder scene while waiting for the detective Somerset. The atmosphere here helps too, as is the seeming dedication of the officer to the job. Thinking further, I find it a stupid deed, given there are buildings around.
- The moment where the detectives are called in by a uniformed officer into a noisy club, guiding them to a murdered prostitute. The alarmed look of this police officer adds to the intensity of the horrific levels of the ordeal the prostitute had to endure. I just wonder why the club wasn't shut down... why do these police continue working in this noise.