Firewall (Alexandre Desplat)


Music composed and conducted by Alexandre Desplat

Rating: ** out of *****

Desplat is an up-and-coming composer trained in the French romantic style, whose scores in general display a subtle power. Though he was not unknown in the film world before 2007, it was then with his stellar score for The Golden Compass that he became widely known beyond the smaller indie films which he scored. Just this fall he struck the motherload as the composer hired to score the Twilight sequel New Moon, bringing his impressive talents to bear on what only could have been (at best) lackluster material. Nevertheless, his score for New Moon was simply phenomenal in every respect, drawing on every musical corner to produce a score that was deeply tragic, Gothic and Romantic of Wuthering Heights heights, haunting and beautiful in equal measure.

Thus I had perhaps expectations too high for a film titled Firewall and revolved around high-tech bank robbers forcing an aging Harrison Ford to steal money from his own bank by holding his family hostage. The film was an above-average thriller, but beyond that surface level offered little for Desplat to sink his teeth into. The result is interesting, and manages to even summon up moments of genuine excitement, but these are far and few between.

Aside from a darting and cutting string motif to represent the danger of the situation and (presumably) the speed of information transfered through the “firewall” of the bank’s security system, there is little cohesion to the music, with each cue essentially dealing with nothing more than the immediate mood of the scene into which it is placed. I recall the film, though it has been a while, and can say that the music is effective enough in that context, but listening to it on its own is not a particularly rewarding way to spend the over fifty minutes the album offers. This, plus an incredibly stagnant performance by a very small orchestra, and the listening appeal drops even further. Desplat is known for complex, polyph0nic and layered scoring, with all sections of the orchestra being used at once, and a quick check through to the ensemble listing in the album insert confirms there were enough instruments to do so, yet here he seemed content to have them all performing the same notes.  In between the cutting rhythm motif that serves for a theme there is nothing but silence, making the performance feel even flatter than it might have otherwise, even with a bored orchestra.

The lack of cohesion and complexity can often beset thrillers, where music is used for the sole purpose of ratcheting up fear and suspense, but many a thriller score has been saved with the inclusion of a strong title theme.  No such luck here, I’m afraid. Not recommended.

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