Music in the movies: the latest movie scores reviewed

Glen checks out the scores for True Grit, Blue Valentine, The Rite, The Eagle and Biutiful...

After covering some of the finest scores from the end of last year and the earlier part of the year back in January, here are the scores that I’ve been listening to recently that are worthy of your attention:

Carter Burwell – True Grit

I recently covered all of Burwell’s collaborations with the Coen brothers for this column, and it was a pleasure listening through his scores in chronological order and hearing how he has evolved as a composer over the years. So, being familiar with Burwell’s work, being a fan of the Coens and having watched the original True Grit numerous times over the years, everything was in place for me to love this film and it didn’t disappoint.

Burwell has composed a near perfect score for the material here, as he evokes a wide range of emotions of the characters and the landscapes seen in the film. He uses hymns of the period in which the film is set as a source of inspiration for his compositions, as well as using numerous pieces throughout. This is why this score was deemed ineligible for the Academy Award. However, it still stands as, not only one of the finest scores of last year, but it’s also up there with the best work of Burwell’s career. And considering the quality of his output to date, that’s saying something.

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Carter Burwell’s soundtrack to True Grit is available now through Nonesuch records.

Grizzly Bear – Blue Valentine

Grizzly Bear is a band that I’ve been a fan of for some time, so I was quite excited when I found out that their music would be included in Blue Valentine. In fact, they were the main draw for me. This is more of a collection of old material than an original score, but it’s still a remarkably effective soundtrack to the film.

The material here is more reflective of the band’s melodic side, rather than their more experimental side, but the material still manages to conjure up the range of emotions required, as well as at times being at odds with the moods depicted on screen.

There’s a sense of dreamlike wistfulness to some of the material that is absolutely perfect, as the music seems to yearn for something unattainable. The song Fairground is heartbreakingly beautiful and should leave people in pieces as it plays out.

In addition to the material by Grizzly Bear, there are a few other suitably fitting tracks supplementing the soundtrack, albeit one is from a side project from one of the band members.

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Ryan Gosling shows off an interesting singing voice on You Always Hurt The One You Love, which is fitting with Grizzly Bear’s style.

The soundtrack to Grizzly Bear is available now through Lakeshore Records and comes highly recommended.

Alex Heffes – The Rite

The latest exorcism film to hit cinemas has, it’s safe to say, received something of a mixed reception, but still, the presence of Sir Anthony Hopkins has seemed to be enough to draw audiences in. The score, by composer Alex Heffes, is a decent effort for this type of film. It’s by no means up there with some of the genre’s finest scores, but it serves the film well and creates an effective atmosphere in the process.

There are moments of overt horror bombast, but the overall tone of the piece is quite subdued, which makes the horror moments all the more effective. It’s not a typical horror score and it’s quite nice that Heffes has tried something different from the norm by not relying on gradual builds of tension.

There’s a simple piano motif that’s quite enjoyable and the score works well in the film. But as an isolated listen, I can’t imagine this is one I’ll regularly return to.

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Alex Heffes score for The Rite is available now through SilvaScreen.

Alti Örvarsson – The Eagle

Members of the Roman legion venturing north of Hadrian ‘s Wall and encountering the hostile Pict natives. Surely we saw this film last year, I hear you ask. Well, yes, Centurion did, indeed, have a similar setup, but this is set some years after Neil Marshall’s thoroughly enjoyable chase film.

I have yet to see The Eagle, but I’m a fan of director Kevin Macdonald’s previous work and I have a lot of affection for swords and sandals fare. So, I’m quite looking forward to this, despite the mixed reviews.

Icelandic composer, Atli Örvarsson, is a composer whose work I have yet to be completely impressed by to date, but I feel this is partly down to the quality of the films his music has accompanied so far. He’s one of many composers who are members of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions and this is a score very much in the Zimmer mould. So, whether or not you’re a fan of Mr. Zimmer’s approach to composing will play a large part in how much you’ll take to this score. It’s not the most subtle of scores, but I can see it serving a purpose, and the use of Celtic instruments gives it a nice feel.

Atli Örvarsson’s score for the Eagle is available now through SilvaScreen and the star rating below reflects how enjoyable it is as a standalone listen.

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Gustavo Santaolalla – Biutiful

Everyone’s favourite merchant of despair, Alejandro González Iñárritu, returned to typical cheery material with Biutiful and teamed up once again with his long time composer of choice, the two time Oscar winner, Gustavo Santaolalla.

The start of the film’s score is somewhat unpredictable, but fascinating to listen to. Santaolalla’s guitar work is very much the draw here, and it really comes into its own in the final third ,with some quite beautiful melodic work that is very much the soundtrack’s highlight.

Santaolalla’s guitar work is supplemented with Spanish language pop music and some classical pieces from Ravel and Maler, but it’s the main composer’s work here that is the draw.

With the score clocking in at around the 70 minute mark, there are plenty of great tracks here that don’t sell the composer’s work short by editing them down.

Gustavo Santaolalla’s score for Biutiful is available now through SilvaScreen.

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If you feel that there are any scores that have been released or are coming out that should be included in future entries in the series, please comment below…

Or, you can reach Glen on Twitter @GlenTChapman.

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5 out of 5