Director David Fincher's dark, stylish thriller ranks as one of the decade's most influential box-office successes. Set in a hellish vision of a New York-like city, where it is always raining and the air crackles with impending death, the film concerns Det. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), a homicide specialist just one week from a well-deserved retirement. Every minute of his 32 years on the job is evident in Somerset's worn, exhausted face, and his soul aches with the pain that can only come from having seen and felt far too much. But Somerset's retirement must wait for one last case, for which he is teamed with young hotshot David Mills (Brad Pitt), the fiery detective set to replace him at the end of the week. Mills has talked his reluctant wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), into moving to the big city so that he can tackle important cases, but his first and Somerset's last are more than either man has bargained for. A diabolical serial killer is staging grisly murders, choosing victims representing the seven deadly sins. First, an obese man is forced to eat until his stomach ruptures to represent gluttony, then a wealthy defense lawyer is made to cut off a pound of his own flesh as penance for greed. Somerset initially refuses to take the case, realizing that there will be five more murders, ghastly sermons about lust, sloth, pride, wrath, and envy presented by a madman to a sinful world. Somerset is correct, and something within him cannot let the case go, forcing the weary detective to team with Mills and see the case to its almost unspeakably horrible conclusion. The moody photography is by Darius Khondji; the nauseatingly vivid special effects are by makeup artist Rob Bottin, best known for more fantasy-oriented work in films like The Howling (1981).
by Robert Firsching synopsis