Two intense Bruce Willis thrillers this month couldn’t have more divergent scores. While the acclaimed Sin City suffers under turgid electronics from a trio of John Debney, Graeme Revell and Robert Rodriguez, the much less hyped Hostage rejoices in a luxuriantly dark orchestral score from the ever more impressive Alexandre Desplat, one of those rare talents in current film music who not only orchestrates and conducts his own music, but on this occasion produced the resultant album too.
I haven’t seen Hostage yet, but on the strength of the music here I intend to at the earliest opportunity. It reminds me, not in a derivative way, but in terms of combining passionately driven melody with dark suspense, with the marvellous scores composed for Brian DePalma’s films during his glory days, notably Pino Donaggio’s Carrie and Dressed to Kill, and John Williams’ The Fury. Indeed around 10 seconds into the stunning action cue ‘Crawl Space’ there is a clear brass motif homage to The Fury, and towards the end of the sequence just a nod towards the ‘Battle of Hoth’ from The Empire Strikes Back.
There are actually three main aspects to this score. The melodic, including the almost deliberately clichéd use of a child-like wordless soprano to what is presumably and calculatedly ‘haunting’ effect, and a rapturously romantic main theme such as only Williams, Herrmann or perhaps Donaggio could conceive. Then there are the atmospherics, with unlike many scores retain musical structure amid the highly inventive orchestrations and unsettling effects. And finally there is the action, which Desplat delivers with a thrilling pyrotechnic savagery which places him clearly in Williams / Goldsmith territory as a composer.
I've constantly been impressed by Desplat's scores since I first heard his music with The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Hostage is superb stuff, a lavishly conceived piece of work with a musical urgency, drama and danger entirely absent from the routine bangs and crashes of the average modern suspense score. Better still, the terror is surrounded by powerfully effective and even tender music which makes the nightmare all the more effective. Virtually every cue here offers something of interest, and the whole stands out as even more impressive than the sum of its superbly crafted parts. The more I listen to this the more impressed I become, and I have to conclude this is the strongest new thriller score I have heard in years.
If Desplat is allowed free reign like this on a regular basis he may well become the finest film composer of his generation and join the ranks of the all time greats. Unreservedly recommended.
Gary says it all –
Although I would not place this score above The Luzhin Defence or Birth it is nevertheless another novel score and a winner from Desplat, the most interesting voice in film music today.