Film review – Seven Pounds (2008)

Every now and then an ambitious film comes along that turns out to be a complete misfire. Seven Pounds is one of those films. Seven Pounds reunites actor Will Smith with director Gabriele Muccino after they so successfully collaborated on the terrific 2006 drama The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith is a capable dramatic actor and Muccino is a strong director who also has the Italian hit The Last Kiss (L’Ultimo bacio) to his name. While the biggest weakness with this film is its script, neither Smith nor Muccino do much to help.

The core issue explored in Seven Pounds is kept secret until the very end of the film. Seven Pounds is so deliberately obscure and ambiguous that it is blatantly clear from the outset that the audience are being denied key pieces of information that are needed in order for everything to make sense. So The Big Thing that is revealed at the end of the film is not an unexpected twist but a heavily signposted revelation. Many audiences will probably figure out The Big Thing about half way through the film, which unfortunately means they are going to get really bored waiting for all the pieces to come together as the film meanders into an uninteresting romantic subplot.

For what it’s worth, Seven Pounds is about Ben Thomas (Smith), an IRS man who seems to be stalking and manipulating the lives of seven other people. Smith is so cold and the tone of the film is so morose that even once surrendering to the realisation that the film is concealing his motivation, it is difficult to enjoy watching the results of his actions because everything is just so glum and plodding. Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper and Rosario Dawson also appear in the film and work well with what little material they have. However only Dawson is really given the chance to shine as Harrelson just has a few scenes and Pepper simply seems to cry the whole time.

There is nothing wrong with ambiguous, complex and even confusing narratives when the direction and writing is strong enough to sustain interest, create intrigue and generate a seductively mysterious atmosphere. Some films can only be understood on a gut emotional level without the storyline having to make sense. However, Seven Pounds doesn’t manage to engage on any level, as it is just so dull and gloomy. Most annoyingly, The Big Thing is an intriguing idea that could have been explored throughout the entire film if the filmmakers hadn’t decided to go with the contrivance of keeping it a secret. There is just no need. Once The Big Thing is finally revealed it is so badly under explored that it reduces a complex issue into something almost flippantly offensive. Seven Pounds could have been a fascinating film but in trying to be too clever it instead a laborious experience and a missed opportunity.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009
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3 Responses to Film review – Seven Pounds (2008)

  1. Benicio says:

    I should start by openly admitting I am a Will Smith fanboi. The movie was certainly messy and as with any top reviewer, you help to articulate that bad taste the movie left me with. But still, only 2 stars?

  2. I actually quite like Will Smith. He was fantastic in Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness and Six Degrees of Separation. I’m also a big fan of things like Enemy of the State and Independence Day (a great guilty pleasure). Heck, I even quite liked Hancock and I Am Legend.

    But I found Seven Pounds to be really self-important, miserable and dull. I usually like getting swept away by the moment but when I felt myself being moved by the conclusion of this film, I was actually angry because I didn’t feel that the film was good enough to deserve an emotional response from me!

    I really can’t give it anything higher than a 2 because the films that I’ve rated higher than 2 are better films. I’m hoping to write an explanation of my ratings next week in order to explain myself better.

  3. Benicio says:

    Sounds like my reaction to Titanic.