Cracking David Fincher

What are the elements of a great mystery film? Intrigue, design, character; these are pieces that masterful directors like David Fincher utilize to create quiet masterpieces like Seven and Gone Girl. These kinds of films don’t wow with unbelievable performances or dazzle with flashy camera techniques. Instead they capture sounds, dead space, and the occasional grisly discovery to forward the plot.

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Seven is a prime example of Fincher’s style. His directing is subtle, focusing on weather and color palette over almost everything else. Brad Pitt is solid as the eager new detective, but he lets David lead the show. In a career of films like Fight Club and the Social Network, it takes quite a bit for one of his films to stick out. His recent foray into TV through Netflix’s Mindhunter has yielded similar results to Seven, returning Fincher to one of his most challenging periods. Zodiac, Seven, Mindhunter, all involve a slow pace, instantly iconic (or true) stories that demand explanation, and massive payoff. The Social Network is undoubtably one of Fincher’s best, and it shares many similarities with Seven. What appears on the surface as a standard noir flick with a shocking twist ending reveals, in multiple viewings, a darkly comical and downtrodden cop flick with an A+ in mood and rain effects.

Lots and lots of rain effects. Seriously, the weather in Seven is a beast of its own, and Fincher’s focus on it is something special. Like the club scene in The Social Network, rain is suffocating and traps innocent characters in a world they want to be a part of, led by their more experienced mentors. In the final scene, the sun beats down ruthlessly on Pitt; his mind is frayed, and his usual sharp wit is clogged by the relentless rays of his enemy. David’s films do something no other directors’ does. They focus on lighting and weather to inform the mood of the characters. They take the time to show characters doing mundane things. His work contains an edge that can be difficult to pin down, a focus on the unusual aspects of filmmaking. For David, having the talent to focus on traditionally untouched aspects of film has led him to a peculiar place. Moviegoers want another Zodiac or Seven, but are prepared for a left hook like The Social Network or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. David’s strengths may seem limited on paper, but his ability to shock and innovate his established genres, like in 2014’s superb Gone Girl, is his greatest skill.