Monday, October 12, 2015

Quick Review: The Walk

The Walk
Music composed by Alan Silvestri
Music conducted by Alan Silvestri
Music orchestrated by Mark Graham
Music recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands
Album running time: 57 minutes
Available on Sony Classical

Based on the real life daring high-wire walk of Philippe Petit, the film is based on the same book that became the Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire (2008). Always trying to seek technological innovations, director Robert Zemeckis uses IMAX 3D to put you in Petit’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) place.

It also marks the 15th film collaboration with director Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri that first started with Romancing the Stone (1984) and most recently on Flight (2012).

The score supports the film nicely, dividing itself with two main themes – one uplifting “Walk Theme”, the sweet “Philippe’s Theme” and the “Heist Theme”. The film and album almost divide evenly up with those themes. Here’s a rundown of the album.

We begin with Pourquoi?, setting a rising string pattern against a piano motif. This is the Walk Theme, setting the prologue up as Petit recounts his story to the audience. The music surges in an uplifting moment before the swing drum set takes over. While the shift is jarring, this jazz section sets up our lead character’s “Heist Theme” and time period. While the beginning section seems very close to Thomas Newman’s work or Silvestri’s own Cosmos, the jazz section sounds like nothing we’ve heard from Silvestri before.

Young Philippe starts off with the piano section of the Walk Theme before introducing us to the circus-like waltz (Philippe’s Theme) for Philippe’s early wire walking work. It’s a lovely tune for strings, accordion and mandolin and it appears in a few select sweet moments throughout the film. Two Loves reveals the romantic side, a gentle tune for solo clarinet, strings and accordion. The solo piano takes over the melody and brings the strings back to finish off the track. The Towers of Notre Dame bring us back to the French style of clarinet, accordion and mandolin before shifting back to the Heist Theme heard earlier. A grander variation of the Philippe Theme grows and expands in orchestration.

“It’s Something Beautiful” echoes the Walk Theme, this time with a weighted feel as a pulse continues in the background. The track closes on a brief reprise of Philippe’s Theme. This track in particular seems very close to his musical landscape of Cosmos. Spy Work is where the Heist Theme gets its full statement, and it’s a fun old-time spy sound. The gravity (pun intended) of his walk is shown in Full of Doubt. The chimes marks the reveal of the World Trade Center towers, with a somber tone in the strings and brass.

Time Passes starts with the usual Silvestri ostinato-style strings and snare drum leading the charge. As the Walk Theme arrives, we get a repetitive electronic ticking pattern that carries through the rest of the track. The Arrow brings some suspense with an ostinato in the low strings before transforming into a comic section. The snare drum and tremolo string writing will certainly sound familiar to Silvestri fans. The drama continues in “We Have a Problem”, as the action section is full of Silvestri goodness. Electronic elements accentuate the orchestra and certain parts sound almost like a mix of James Horner and patterns from Cosmos.

The Walk returns us to the music from Pourquoi and clearly utilizes the Walk Theme. Strings keep some of the high-wire tension by maintaining their high notes as the piano motif enters. Voices enter as even more delightful melodies emerge. “I Feel Thankful” begins with Beethoven’s Fur Elise on piano as Petit continues his walk with each step as graceful as this source music expands with the full orchestra. The action ostinato returns with fragmented phrases punctuated by timpani and snare drum. Our main Walk Theme appears again, alternating with the action section. While this long track seems to have so many abrupt changes on the album, it fits the drama of the film.

“They Want To Kill You” begins serenely with the piano motif before the pace quickens with a steady percussion section and electronic pattern. The strings and horn have a great moment halfway through, a great Silvestri moment. “There Is No Why” brings us back to our main theme, this time coming through the emotional journey musically as in Cosmos, Contact or even The Croods. This track is a great introduction to the score and the slight magic feel the score has. “Perhaps You Brought Them To Life - Given Them A Soul” continues in the same style as the previous track. We get an orchestral crescendo to a lush section with a reprise of the piano motif and Walk Theme. Emotionally gratifying, the swelling finale eventually fades away, as if in the wind.

Besides latching onto the emotional core of a scene, Silvestri gets you to really love a score by the end of the film (or album). At first listen, it’s a bit disjointed - the same way it is in the film. But once Petit is getting ready for the climb until the end, it’s a marvelous listening experience. And the film is that, an experience. Director Zemeckis crafted a fine film, full of dazzling shots and story through visual effects. If this movie ends up near awards season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the score gets some recognition. Silvestri fans will no doubt recognize some of his most done stylistic choices, including similarities with the previously mentioned Contact, Cosmos and Forrest Gump. If the French accordion music/circus music turns you away at the beginning of the album, keep listening – a stirring and moving score lies ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Silvestri's best score in YEARS! Can't believe you did not mention the likeness to some of his finer moments in the Polar Express - uncanny similarities! Thanks! www.jamieseraficomposer.com

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