Seven Pounds misses the opportunity to be extraordinary.
How do you judge a movie whose first two acts are barely comprehensible and painfully mundane but whose third act is a beautifully heart-wrenching display of guilt and an attempt at redemption? This is the conundrum of reviewing Seven Pounds, which stars Will Smith in the most powerful performance of his career.
The catalyst for the events that take place in the movie is a man we know as Ben Thomas (Smith) who has made it his mission to, as he says, "drastically change the position" of seven people. We don’t see the ways in which he changes all of the people’s lives. In fact, the movie very much focuses on one person who Ben encounters named Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), and the relationship that develops between them and how it affects the commitment Ben has made. Through most of the movie very little is explained of Ben’s past, which is just as frustrating for Emily as it is for the audience.
This is where Seven Pounds misses the opportunity to be extraordinary. Too much of the movie is spent being cryptic just for the sake of being cryptic. This works for films like Memento and L.A. Confidential, but there is no integral reason to keep the audience closed off except in an empty attempt to blindside them at the end. This is not needed because the movie’s climax is so true and emotionally charged that much more information could have been revealed and it wouldn’t have detracted from the impact of what Ben must do.
I cannot say enough of Will Smith’s performance in this movie. His character carries so much weight and guilt on his shoulders that Smith is physically bent over through most of the film. He has also slimmed down quite noticeably, which helps to show how little his character has come to care about his physical well-being. Without giving too much away, I can say that Smith tells the audience more than is shown early in the movie just by his facial expressions. Pay close attention to his eyes: when they are darting back and forth like a scared puppy or when he is able to fix a dead stare on someone. This tells you the truth about the character.
The supporting cast all give good performances, as well. Barry Pepper has maybe four scenes in the whole movie, but what he does in those scenes is terrific. As Dan, Ben’s best friend, he is the one person who knows everything Ben has done and plans on doing, and it is killing him. He is terrified and shows that fear in every line he delivers.
The movie is pretty far from the typical Will Smith fare, so you would be wise not to compare it to his previous work. If you are patient enough to make it through the first two-thirds of the movie, you are guaranteed an experience unlike any other film in recent memory. | Matthew F. Newlin