The Thrilling Parallels Between Detective Somerset and John Doe in ‘Se7en’

Emily Kubincanek
August 24, 2018
Film School Rejects

How can the good guy and bad guy be so similar?

At the core of any story is the relationship between protagonist and antagonist, especially in a story where the protagonist must understand his enemy in order to find him. The best battles between good and evil are convoluted with characteristics that could be categorized as either, or neither. When hero and villain are more alike than either would want to admit, that makes for a dynamite struggle between them. There are so many books out there that explain how to achieve that element in storytelling, but few movies ever do it as well as David Fincher’s serial killer masterpiece Se7en (1995).

Honestly, we’ve learned to expect nothing less than greatness with a Fincher + serial killer collaboration, and Se7en was his first. This almost neo-noir thriller follows the investigation of a serial killer using the seven deadly sins to justify brutal killings all over an unnamed city. Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is an aging homicide detective on his way out of the department when he’s assigned the worst last case. He’s paired with his replacement, an idealistic and determined young detective named Mills (Brad Pitt). They’re forced to work through their differences to solve the case, which is more horrifying and unpredictable than either could imagine.

There are viable arguments for who is the true protagonist in this movie, Somerset or Mills. For the sake of reading the rest of this article, just humor me if you disagree that Somerset is the protagonist in this story. He begins and ends this movie, most of the struggles are his own, and he’s in 90 percent of the scenes. While Mills has a major relationship with the killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey) as well, what convinces me that he is not the protagonist is the connection and similarities between Somerset and Doe.

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