Seven Pounds


Reviewed by: Rick Derisz

Seven Pounds
"It’s refreshing to see an unconventional plot in a Hollywood feature, especially with an actor such as Smith involved."

Amid intense hype surrounding releases such as Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler, it is not uncommon for some films to pass under the radar. You could say that Seven Pounds falls into that category, sandwiched in between movies people are either raving about or eagerly anticipating. With such a popular figure as Will Smith in the leading role, teaming up with Gabriele Muccino, the same director he worked with on Pursuit Of Happyness, Seven Pounds has a promising precedent. However, unlike the pair’s first production, this film is in pursuit of redemption rather than optimism.

The narrator's voice washes over the opening credits, and when the image appears we see Ben Thomas (Will Smith) on the phone, talking to a 911 operator. Ben reports a suicide, and when questioned as to who the victim is, he says himself, igniting curiosity and signifying the theme running throughout the film. The foreboding statement - "In seven days, God created the world... In seven seconds, I shattered mine" sets the tone.

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Ben is an IRS agent, searching for potential candidates to help, using his job as a guise, although not before scrutinising them carefully. These gifts are life changing, and Ben appears to be seeking salvation. One ‘candidate’ in particular, Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) he meets regularly and feelings between the two escalate. Just as their relationship reaches its peak, Ben has an important decision to make. The motive for Ben’s actions become clearer as the film goes on, portrayed via flashbacks (reminiscent of I Am Legend). These build up toward the climax of the film, where we return to the opening scene to see if Ben's plan is implemented.

One thing must be said about the plot – it asks extremely powerful moral questions, and whether or not the characters' actions are correct is an issue. Smith’s character is playing God, and the processes he goes through to find the chosen few are questionable. We only really get to see a few of these in depth, and these raise doubts as to the credibility of the recipient parties, which undermines some of the story's believability. For example, Ben randomly finds a woman who is being abused by her husband. He then picks her and her children to move into his house, despite her only being in two scenes. Because of this, you don’t feel a real connection to the characters, which is essential in a storyline involving such generosity.

Regardless of the questions the plot inevitably throws up, there are positive things to take from it. It is genuinely intriguing, and is laid out in such a way that you are guessing until the end as to what the outcome will be. Its profound emotional undertone does have an effect, and you know the film will strike a chord with many people. It’s also refreshing to see an unconventional plot in a Hollywood feature, especially with an actor such as Smith involved.

The supporting cast do their job well, with Barry Pepper, in particular, putting in a sterling performance as Ben’s best friend and administrator, pulling you in with his portrayal of confusion and emotional anxiety, a credit to him considering his role in the film. Michael Ealy also puts in a solid performance, although he doesn’t have enough screen time to make a substantial impact. Furthermore, Woody Harrelson is convincing as the well mannered blind salesman, Ezra Turner, and does enough for you to believe in Ben’s motivation for helping him.

Of course, Ben Thomas (Will Smith) and Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) are the two leads. The latter is immensely charming and alluring, and, it has to be said, the main attraction of the movie. Dawson makes the whole story worthwhile and is the catalyst for Ben’s actions. Unfortunately, in a world away from The Pursuit Of Happyness, Smith seems to be stuck in first gear. His character's challenging moments are performed effortlessly and do contain raw, heart-warming emotion, but this is more a testament to Smith’s acting ability than to the characterisation in the film, which leaves a lot to be desired. You desperately want to connect fully with Ben, and it is critical you do so, yet it is Dawson’s portrayal of Rosa that twists the heart strings, whilst her vulnerability makes you want to step in Smith’s shoes and save her... and that is the true success of Seven Pounds.

In conclusion, Seven Pounds is a tough, gritty story which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Yet somehow, despite its morbid nature, a blade of light has pierced through the smallest of holes, and there is some warmth and sincerity to its end. Smith and Muccino have failed to recreate such an inspiring performance as in The Pursuit Of Happyness, yet this film makes you ponder Thomas’ character and its most poignant aspect is that is makes you ask questions about life. There is no doubt that some will relate more than others to this film, but credit where it’s due, this is a commendable attempt at a sombre story.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2009
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Seven Pounds packshot
A man tries to atone for the lives he took accidentally by sacrificing himself for seven others before dying.
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Director: Gabriele Muccino

Writer: Grant Nieporte

Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper, Elpidia Carrillo, Robinne Lee

Year: 2008

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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