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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/25/00


review by Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

Se7en: Platinum Series

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround
Platinum Series - 1995 (2000) - New Line

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/A+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A+

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
127 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), dual-disc custom slipcase/gatefold packaging, Stars audio commentary track (with director David Fincher and actors Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman), Story commentary track (with Fincher, author Richard Dyer, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, editor Richard Francis-Bruce and New Line president of production Michael De Luca), Picture commentary (with Fincher, director of photography Darius Khondji, production designer Arthur Max, editor Richard Francis-Bruce and author Richard Dyer), Sound commentary (with Fincher, sound designer Ren Klyce, composer Howard Shore and author Richard Dyer - includes isolated 5.1 music and effects cues), color bar test pattern, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (37 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 and 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
Exploration of the Opening Title Sequence video clip with multi-angle/audio options (3 video angles and 6 audio tracks, including DD 2.0, DD 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1 ES, 96/24 PCM stereo, Concept commentary and Sound commentary), Deleted Scenes and Extended Takes (original opening, animated storyboards of original opening, plus 6 other extended scenes all with optional Fincher commentary), Alternate Endings (original test ending and animated storyboards of un-shot ending both with optional Fincher commentary), Production Designs video clip (with commentary), Still Photographs video clips (John Doe's photos, Victor's Decomposition photos, Police Crime Scene photos and production photos, all with commentary), The Notebooks video clip (with commentary), Se7en theatrical EPK featurette, theatrical trailer, cast & crew filmographies, Mastering for Home Theater video clips (including Audio Mastering, Video Mastering, Color Correction Demonstration and Telecine Gallery of 3 scenes with multi-angle/audio options that let you compare the old and new video transfers and DD 5.1 mixes), credits Easter egg, PC Friendly DVD-ROM extras (including Script to Screen screenplay access, a link to a "John Doe" website and studio weblinks), animated film-themed menus with sound effects and music

Seven (original release) Se7en
1995 (1997) - New Line

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/F

Specs and Features

127 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), dual-sided (the film is split over both sides - a "flipper" disc), single-layered, Snapper case packaging, cast & crew bios, film-themed menu screens, scene access (38 chapters - 20 on side A, 18 on side B), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French & Spanish, Closed Captioned

Review Note: In the following text, commentary on the film is by Todd Doogan, while commentary on the DVD quality is by Bill Hunt.

"We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every house... and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon and night."

In a rainy, unnamed city, a serial killer starts a grisly cycle of murders over a seven-day period, handing out death in the pattern of the Seven Deadly sins. For those without a Bible, those sins are Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy and Wrath. The killer stalks the city, looking for people that embody their particular sin inside and out... which sort of makes everyone a possible target.

Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is set for retirement in seven days, ironically enough, when this cycle begins. He's breaking in a new partner, David Mills (Brad Pitt), who's fresh from the country and ready to tackle big city crime. But his trial by fire will only prove that he's not ready - not in the least. When the two detectives accidentally stumble onto the case, they find themselves in the middle of a moralistic master plan that looks, right from the start, like it won't be easy on anyone. And it isn't. No one walks away from this unscathed in some way. Everyone involved will find their lives, their hopes and their dreams totally changed... all while unconsciously playing into the killer's master plan. And if there's any hope, it isn't apparent in the final, startling minutes of this well-crafted thriller.

Se7en is a stark and horrifying look at the corruption of evil. But it's even more than that... it's a study of sin. It's easy to write the killer off, but in many ways, he and Somerset are the same person. The only difference is, Somerset is sorrowfully turning his back on the filth of the city, while the killer is exposing it for what it is. Both are wrong for their courses of action, but in this day and age, there is no middle ground. There is no proper way to deal with the sins of humanity. They're burned into us. We all carry the sins of our fathers, as they say. We're in a world without hope. The killer and the detective both know this, and it's how they express that hopelessness that makes all the difference.

Director David Fincher makes it a point to push our faces into the grime here, and yet... we see nothing. We've all heard people complaining about how violent and disgusting this film is, but is it? There are really only two actual moments of violence in the film - the rest is subjective. We're given glimpses of images, yet nothing more than a taste. But it's that very taste left in our mouths that is so foul. Most of what we're given here is the aftermath, but it's the aftermath of violence that is so much harder to swallow.

As was purposefully written into the script by Andrew Kevin Walker (as he clerked at a Tower Records in New York - the perfect muse for a story like this), we are always brought into the crimes at the last moment. We never see the killer's methods, or his motives. We just get clues. Even in the end, after the detectives capture their man, the reasons for what he has done aren't totally spelled out. We see the rantings of an enraged man, full of hate and prejudice, but it doesn't make any sense. That is to say, it doesn't make sense to the logically minded. But that's the point of a twisted mind - all logic goes out the window. To this day, I believe his rantings were as much a part of the performance as the murders were. But we may never know exactly why the killer in this film killed. He may have just been a very jaded performance artist for all we know. In any case, whatever you think of its bleak story, Se7en definitely hits a nerve in all of us.

Other than this new 2-disc Se7en: Platinum Series, there has been one other version of Se7en released on DVD. The title was among New Line's first entries on the format, way back in 1997, and it was a dreaded "flipper" disc, with the film spread over both sides of a single disc. It's amazing to look back at these early discs and see just how far we've come - this disc is primitive. I felt like Fred Flinstone just touching it. The disc featured letterboxed widescreen video - not anamorphic - of fairly good quality for the time. Contrast and colors were very nice, but there was noticeable MPEG-2 compression artifacting, typical of the earliest DVD releases. The audio was an adequate English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a French 2.0 track was also included. Extras amounted to cast & crew bios. Hey - at least it had film-themed menu screens. In any case, this is the first and last time we'll speak of this version. Our suggestion is to simply forget it ever existed, 'cause this new 2-disc set absolutely rocks.

Disc One of the Se7en: Platinum Series contains the film is truly amazing anamorphic widescreen video. Simply put, you've never seen Se7en looking this good before, even in the best theaters. The film transfer for DVD was handled with kid gloves by New Line, under the direct supervision of Fincher. To start with, the transfer was mastered directly from the film's original edited negative, which, according to New Line, is a first for DVD. A high definition transfer was completed and then the film was digitally cleaned of dust, dirt and other print defects. Then, again under Fincher's supervision, it was completely re-color timed, shot by shot. In many cases, Fincher was able to finally achieve the look he'd wanted originally, but had never gotten before, even theatrically. The result is truly something to behold. You'll see stunning blacks, which still retain incredible detail. The colors on this transfer are gorgeous - you'll see amazing subtlety to skin tones and shadings. That's not to say that this is reference quality compared to some other DVDs - this has always been a dark, gritty, grainy film. And there is some very occasional and non-distracting edginess to the image. But I think this transfer is absolutely reference quality for THIS film.

The audio options here are equally impressive. New Line's audio gurus went back to the original audio stems for the film and completely digitally remixed Se7en's soundtrack for home theater, again under the supervision of Fincher and sound designer Ren Klyce. Included is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack with Surround EX compatibility, which features a nicely wide soundstage, very subtle directional cues and panning, good low frequency when necessary and delicious creation of ambient sound environments. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and Howard Shore's score comes alive. This isn't the most aggressive soundtrack, but it's very atmospheric and it's never sounded better. Okay... let me qualify that - the DTS 6.1 ES soundtrack IS even better. Listening to the opening credit sequence in DTS is an almost sublime experience. It's as if the sound goes straight to the pleasure center of your brain. This mix is extraordinarily cool, all the more so for its subtlety. It's easy to blow people away with the kind of attackingly aggressive surround sound you get in a big action film, but this is much more impressive in my mind.

Also included on Disc One are a series of 4 audio commentary tracks. All feature director David Fincher, with a variety of other cast & crew members. There's a newly-recorded "Stars" track, where Fincher is joined by actors Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The track is a fun listen (and it's not the same track that's on the Criterion laserdisc - FYI). The easy interplay between Fincher and Pitt is entertaining and really shows how intelligent these guys are. There are plenty of interesting insights into the film, the story and the angle these guys approached it from... plus it's occasionally very funny. Freeman also adds significantly to the track, although it sounds like he was recorded separately. Also available is a "Story" commentary with Fincher, professor of film studies and author Richard Dyer, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, editor Richard Francis-Bruce and New Line President of Production Michael De Luca, a "Picture" commentary with Fincher, director of photography Darius Khondji, production designer Arthur Max, editor Richard Francis-Bruce and author Richard Dyer and a "Sound" commentary with Fincher, sound designer Ren Klyce, composer Howard Shore and author Richard Dyer. This last one is cool because it includes isolated 5.1 music and effects cues.

So that's Disc One. Disc Two adds to all that an amazing quality and quantity of supplemental materials on this film. One note - both discs are enhanced with the use of very cool animated menu screens, which recall the style and tone of the film's opening credits. Okay... back to the Disc Two extras. This isn't your usual lame-duck mix of cross-promotional trailers for other films, studio-produced On Location fluff pieces and other uninteresting crap. This is a hard-core film buff experience. This is a serious exploration into the minds of the creative individuals who contributed to this film. In an word, it's outstanding.

You start off with an in-depth look at the film's opening credit sequence, that uses both multiple angles AND multiple audio tracks. You can choose to view either the original storyboarded sequence, the rough edit or the final, completed version. And you can listen to the sound in Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1 ES or (and get this) 24bit 96Khz PCM stereo sound. And you also get audio commentary from two perspectives - Story and Concept. Right off the bat, after playing with this segment alone, you know you're in for something that's a cut above the usual DVD experience. Next, you've got a section of 6 extended scenes, all with optional Fincher commentary. Also included in this section is the film's original opening scene and an animated storyboard video clip of the scene, also with optional commentary. Then you get the film's original test ending, and an animated storyboard video clip of an un-shot ending, again with optional Fincher commentary. Cool? We're just getting started. There's a 9-minute video of production design artwork with commentary. There's a section of still photograph video clips, again all with commentary, including a look at John Doe's photos, Victor's decomposition, Police crime scene photos and other on-set production photos. There's a 8-minute video on the creation of John Doe's notebooks, with commentary. There's a 6-minute EPK featurette and the film's theatrical trailer in excellent quality. You get extensive cast & crew filmographies. There are even some cool DVD-ROM features, including the PC Friendly Script to Screen feature, where you can watch the film while following in the screenplay, and a link to a John Doe website New Line has created with even more film material.

But my favorite section on this disc is something that I want to give its own paragraph to talk about - a whole section on the process of mastering this film for home theater. It serves as a "making of the DVD", if you will. You get a 4-minute video on the audio mastering process with commentary by audio engineers Brant Biles and Robert Margouleff. You get a 4-minute clip on video mastering with commentary by colorist Stephen Nakamura and New Line VP of Post Production Evan Edelist. You then get (and this is very cool) a 14-minute video that serves as a demonstration of the color correction process. It's as if you're in a post production suite with Nakamura, watching as he corrects skin tones and matches sky color from shot to shot, using directions given him by Fincher. He's working on the last scene of the film, and while he's doing it all, he's explaining the process to us. I think a lot of people that love DVD are going to find this really fascinating. Finally, you have a gallery of 3 scenes, where you can use your angle and audio controls to switch on-the-fly between the film's original and new video transfers and the film's original and newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The difference is startling and it really illustrates the whole process perfectly.

What more can we say? Everything that makes Se7en a great movie is here on this new DVD edition. We get the most optimal sound (because, without any argument, this film is all about sound), as well as optimal video (Darius Khondji's stark, yet subtle, images will burn into your mind's eye). And we get a firm sense of the film's history and design with the supplements, as well as a cool look at the DVD process. What more could any fan of the movie or Fincher (or even DVD, for that matter) want? Se7en is a film that's best watched, appreciated and then studied, and this Se7en: Platinum Series release gives you a perfect way to do that.

David Fincher is undoubtedly one of the most important voices in cinema today. That's a bold statement, to be sure, but it's one we think will ring truer as his career progresses. Cudos to New Line for a 2-disc DVD set that absolutely does justice to his work. It's definitely one of our favorite DVD releases to date. It was worth the wait and is absolutely not to be missed.

Todd Doogan

Bill Hunt

Se7en: Platinum Series

Se7en (original)

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