- Main character descriptions: Somerset: 45; Detective Taylor: 52; Detective Mills: 31, muscular and handsome; Tracy: 30, a beautiful woman; John Doe: balding, almost silly looking man with thick glasses and wrinkled clothing (when he’s posing as a reporter)
These descriptions are not all that specific, and especially for Somerset, where only his age is given. Instead of describing their physique (telling), on the most part, Walker showsthe reader who these characters are, what their personalities are like, through their actions. I think it’s interesting that the character who is described the most is John Doe, the killer, the character who shows up only halfway through the script (albeit, a very important character).
- The way that Somerset and Mills interact throughout the script is incredibly important. From their first conversation, they are uneasy and tense around each other. It also sheds some light on each character—Somerset is about to retire and Mills has been transferred over. As they spend more time with each other, they warm up to each other, until the final part of the script where they go together to find the two bodies Doe promised them. This progression of their relationship is slow and steady
- The scene in which Tracy and Somerset talk about the baby: I’m wondering if it could have been placed anywhere differently to have the same impact. The conversation is important—at the end, Doe references the baby and then when Somerset sees the boy and his father kissing, the reader can understand why he is so much affected by this simple act. I think the scene to me seems a bit out of place because this is one of the only two scenes we really see Tracy have any lines. I think it would have been much better if she had been more than just a plot device to further the Man’s Journey along, but I don’t know where more of her could have fit, honestly. Truth be told, this is a crime movie and romance doesn’t have much place in one. I think if somewhere in the script Mills and Somerset would have talked about family and Mills would have mentioned that he wanted to have a child with Tracy, it would have added an extra punch to the end, where Doe tells Mills about the baby and the latter is shocked by it because he didn’t know.
- What really impressed me about this script was the way the plot unfolded, the way the characters were written, how bit by bit we’re given more information about them (but only what’s necessary to the plot), the way the Mills and Somerset relationship developed, and obviously the ending. The suspense to the final act was done so well. Every movement of the deliveryman, Somerset’s actions, his reactions and emotions, Mills’s anxiety…wow. Must learn how to write like this.
- The ending: I actually read the alternate script ending first and then I went to the Wikipedia page of the movie. I accidentally read the ending of the movie (which is different from both scripts) and was confused, so I found another script (dailyscript one) and read the ending of that one, which is I think closer to the movie version than the alternate one. Personally, I like the dailyscript version better, but the alternate version also left an impression.
The dailyscript script however does not have the final line that the movie has and that disappointed me because it’s fantastic. The alternate ending, though in my opinion, more nobler, doesn’t have that final weariness to it—Somerset shoots Doe and then shoots himself, leaving Mills to do the “good work”, whereas in the movie/script, Mills cracks, shoots Doe, and is arraigned (and it’s understood that he may not have a career after this). With this one case, from a passionate, justice-filled cop, he sinks lower than Somerset. He’s not burnt out, he’s hopeless. There is nothing left for him. He is one of the “good ones”, but he loses, leaving Somerset with no choice but go back to work, because there is nothing else he can do.
This script definitely packs a wallop. I would highly recommend reading it because it is very good. The only criticism I have with it is that the only woman character there is used for the benefits of the men. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a solution as to how that problem might have been avoided.
- The flower tile is shown in the beginning of the movie but the scene in the script at the beginning where Somerset takes it from the house is cut, as well as the end scene where he takes it out again, which makes the appearance of the tile completely meaningless.
- In the script, the reader is allowed a bit of time (5 pages) to get to know a bit of Somerset—a burnt-out, weary cop who lives alone in a horrific, dismal city. In the movie, we don’t see this and we get introduced to Mills in the first two minutes.
- Brad Pitt, in my opinion, was good for this role. Morgan Freeman seemed to me to be too animated, too kind. He doesn’t have that hardness that Somerset has in the script.
- The title credits are interesting because we get a taste of Doe from the very beginning—the notebooks, the bandaged fingers…we are shown the killer from the very start, but we only get to know him towards the end. I thought this was very clever. (Not to mention, I was tickled to see that the song ‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails was used.)
- Somerset refuses to look at Mills when he asks to be reassigned to another case. The way it’s filmed makes it very apparent that Somerset is ignoring Mills, doesn’t really respect him. The shots focus on Somerset and the captain, and only when Mills tries to interject himself does the shot go to him. Even when he speaks, Freeman is seen in profile. And only when Mills finally tells him to say it to his face does Freeman finally face the camera fully.
- Similarly, when the captain comes to talk to Somerset in his office, we see that the latter pays attention to the former only when the former is talking to him about the case. When he starts talking about Somerset’s personal life, he gets disinterested and turns his back. The only close-up we have of Somerset in this scene is from above, when he explains why he’s retiring—signifying that this part is important.
- From the moment where Somerset explains his theory of the seven deadly sins to the captain and Mills, this is where we see the two detectives start working together, frame-wise. This is the first time Somerset has given Mills the time of day, and he shows him the two pictures, intentionally turning towards him and letting him see them before he turns his attention to the captain. Throughout the rest of the movie, we see them both in the same frame, signifying their increasing closeness, culminating in the last scene with Doe.
- The scenes with Tracy and Somerset, to me, seem to me to be a lot friendlier than they came across in the script, so much so that the restaurant scene actually seemed well-placed and natural. I think it’s because Freeman’s acting is different than I would have imagined someone to play Somerset. So, there’s a pro and con to the character/actor.
- A detail that I noticed that I really liked was that in the script, the city is supposed to be this rotten, dirty, disgusting city. In the movie, I think this was shown well, especially because throughout the entire movie, it’s raining…until the detectives and Doe go out to find the dead bodies.
- Kevin Spacey was well cast in this role. He has this quietness about him, this calm smile that makes you shiver a bit inside. He’s exactly who I think of when the murderer is this insane sort-of genius who does intricate, fascinating murders. He plays kind of the same role in ‘The Usual Suspects’.
- The most important scene actually fell short for me. I didn’t think Freeman expressed enough horror (in the script, he actually throws up, and I think that would have been appropriate in the movie) and Pitt’s performance was not angry enough. When he actually shoots Doe, it was anticlimactic, also because there was no struggle between Mills and Somerset (like there was in the script). In addition, the very last scene was a letdown as well because I thought the father/son moment was fantastic. I really liked the last quote but there was no quote at the beginning of the movie so I thought it didn’t really make much sense.
So…the movie was good, but I thought that the ending would have much better if the script was followed.
8 Sequence Method
Act 1: Sequence 1: Set up of world, point of attack
Pages 1-8: Somerset is introduced, his surroundings (the dirty, sleazy city), his job. He meets Mills.
Sequence 2: Things start to go wrong, establishing the main tension
Pages 8-25: The first two murders, gluttony and greed happen. The link to the deadly seven sins is made. Mills gets put on the case.
Act 2: Sequence 3: Explanation of why goal is difficult, learn more about the characters, develop a plan
Pages 25-44: Somerset researches the seven deadly sins and he starts helping Mills. Somerset gets invited to dinner and the two detectives put their heads together and try to figure out what’s going on.
Sequence 4: First attempt of plan, characters think they know what they’re doing but they don’t. The plan fails, but the characters emerge with a stronger, better, more focused plan. Focuses the movie, also contains midpoint.
Pages 25-66: The detectives go to talk to the second victim’s wife. Fingerprints are found and a match is made. They go to the suspect’s house only to find that he is the victim of sloth. Midpoint is at page 67, but close enough.
Sequence 5: Main attempt
Pages 66-78: John Doe is found but scuffle ensues.
Sequence 6: Further on main attempt
Pages 78-99: Doe’s house is investigated, Tracy and Somerset talk about his past and her having a baby, and Mills and Somerset talk about whether what they’re doing is worth it.
Act 3: Sequence 7: Descent into the darkness, false ending to the end, we think all hope is lost, and there’s the twist.
Pages 99-126: Pride is found, Doe comes in, Somerset and Mills go out to the deserted place to find the two bodies that Doe promised them. The deliveryman delivers the package…which contains Tracy’s head.
Sequence 8: The ending, characters have to wrap it all up, this is the real resolution and we get all the info
Pages 126-134: The last two bodies are supposed to be Doe’s (who’s Envy) and Mills (who’s Wrath). Doe envies Mills life and so killed Tracy and cut off her head. He’s trying to get Mills to kill him…Mills kills him, ruining his career. Somerset gets shot in the scene…A few weeks later, he gets out of the hospital, gets a letter from Mills telling him he was completely right. Somerset’s not so sure anymore and the script ends with him walking up the police station’s stairs…not retired.
Personal observation on diversity: No race/ethnic inclusion in character descriptions in script for the main characters. There are two detectives that are specified as black and female. Of the five-ish main characters, four are men (Somerset, Mills, Doe, California) and one is female (Tracy). Only one of these five main characters is a POC (Somerset). There are a few POCs in the film as minor characters as well (three, if I recall correctly).
But, only counting main characters, 1/5 and 1/5 on gender and race.