Monday, 21 October 2013

Prisoners Score Review

Prisoners is the new film directed Denis Villeneuve which stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. The film is about a situation in which Jackman's daughter disappears, and he decides to take matters into his own hands when the cops aren't able to find his daughter quick enough. The score is composed by Johann Johannsson, who's decided to go for an incredibly dark score, one which is composed with powerful synth at it's core. And whilst Johann has proved his worth many times before, this new score may not suit many listeners. Let's see how it does in my eyes!

The Lord's Prayer is our first piece, and it's a great start to the score, with some simple orchestral music, and a powerful riff in the background. Whilst it doesn't offer a huge amount of variety in speed and power, it is a light way to start off the dark score. It's 2:31 length suits this kind of piece very well. I Can't Find Them comes up next, and we begin dark and slow. The background riff, by the minute stage, has become quite irritating, and the volume and speed doesn't really change. The piece is haunting though, and it silently hints that more is to come. I swear that the first part of the piece is a complete replay of The Lord's Prayer, which annoys me incredibly! I honestly haven't heard anything original for 4 minutes. The piece ends, eventually, leaving me uninterested.

The Search Party begins with more speed, and with a lighter stringed instrument. It sounds as if a couple more instruments have been added in, simply to keep the piece flowing. A few percussion solos save this piece from complete disaster, luckily. The rest of the piece changes it's rhythm slightly, but apart from this small change, the piece is pretty much the same old, same old. Surveillance Video starts deeper, and with much more grunt than the previous 3 pieces. A theme is hard to take away, in the midst of the incredibly loud and deep music playing. The percussion works well, as do the strings, in this much more powerful piece. It earns few points back, for being something slightly original. The final 30 seconds, unfortunately, are a complete grind to get through, and this impacts on the piece's score heavily.

The Candlelight Vigil starts with the same old rehashed rhythm that we've heard 3 times already. Vigil does have slightly more power to it, which would have to be thanks to the brass in this piece, which zooms in and out. The strings are powerful, but they sound very one dimensional. The 5:11 length is far too much of a grind for this uninteresting, old piece. Escape starts with a familiar sound, but slowly builds intensity and volume, unlike any of our previous pieces. I'm hoping, simply by the title of the piece, that we get to see some speed, maybe a little percussion! But... we get strings for the first couple minutes. And whilst they are filled with a lot of power and grunt, they feel a little old, once again. The strings echo adds a little depth to the sounds, which is good, I guess? In contrast to the rest of the score, we are definitely offered much more here than we have before. Some vocals bring a lot of solid power to the piece. They flash in and out of the later stages of the piece, but they are very much overpowered by the strings. The growing intensity is enjoyable to listen to, and the ending is nice, with the music dulling and the vocals taking over. The piece sits well with me, as the rest of the score has been incredibly underwhelming.

The Tall Man offers us a little bit of volume, for once, and has a powerful start. The strings start up around the mid point, and are pleasantly woven into the piece, and play a part in the overall feel, and are not the main instrument. This saves the piece, fortunately. The piece ends slowly, and we are thrown into The Everyday Bible. We get some woodwind, which lightens the mood incredibly! Some drum beats are heard in the background, whilst the piece warms up. The piece goes back to the somber tone of the entire score, and we finish slowly. The Everyday Bible is one of the few pieces that really keeps me interested and offers a little reward for sitting through this dull and irritating score.

Following Keller returns to the old strings, but we are introduced to a rhythm that sounds slightly tweaked. After the constant rhythm we've been listening to for 30 minutes, it makes a big difference. The piece doesn't build much intensity or volume over the 2:11. Once it reaches it's peak, it stops and stays. Through Falling Snow is another very soft piece, with some good ole' keyboard! It's a very pleasant piece, whilst setting a cautious atmosphere, which is a definite good thing! The riff in the background is quite intoxicating and fresh, and really adds heaps to the piece! The piece builds slowly, and it ends very powerfully. This one beautiful piece gives me so much hope for the rest of the score! The Keeper holds a slow pace the whole way through, but it's volume increases to create a very powerful piece. Towards the ending, a very mood related riff hits the background, and it's truly brilliant! Johannsson is slowly winning points back, luckily.

The Intruder starts off, once again, with a slow, atmospheric rhythm. It's not exactly original, and once again, Johannsson sounds like he is just recycling old ideas and rhythms. A deep note lasts over a minute, and that's pretty much where I lost all interest. We get a little more keyboard at the end, but it doesn't do much for me. The Priests Basement starts off with an uninteresting set, and wins no points back with some heavy strings. And then the piece basically stops, and tries to recover with an atmospheric synth solo, but falls flat.

The Snakes starts off with some power, and slowly grows. If I was more than an impatient teenager, maybe I would enjoy these slow, recycled rhythms and beats. But, I'm not more than an impatient teenager, and I certainly do not enjoy these slow, recycled rhythms and beats. The Snakes is everything I really hate about this score. Much too slow, old rhythms and above all, completely uninteresting. It offers close to nothing. The Trans Am has a little more speed to it, and a few more instruments flowing in and out. The strings return, to simply mock me. We end this piece, thankfully, and we move onto our finale! Prisoners is our final piece, and has the longest running time, 7:00. I'm not looking forward to this at all. Fortunately, the piece begins with some lighter toned sets, before letting the orchestral music take a complete foot hold. The piece picks up it's pace around the 2:40 mark, and we get some good riffs in the background. At this stage, I've just realised this seems to be a highlights reel. We're getting all the big rhythms and beats from the score, to my much dismay. The Through Falling Snow set only lasts a short time, which has to be the most disappointing thing to do with this piece. A few fast sets are thrown throughout the piece, and they manage to make the piece slightly bearable. The theme to the entire score hits us at the end, and, despite my lack of faith, I have to thank the Lord. The Prisoners score has finally finished.

Conclusion:
I can see what Johannsson wanted to provide. A slow but haunting and powerful score. One that would trap you in it's grasp slowly, and envelop you over time. But to be honest, the score is much too slow, the music repetitive and uninteresting, and lacking in a fair amount of power. The score does have it's highlights, but they are far between, and aren't worth it if you have to grind through the rest of the score. As I haven't seen the film yet, I can't say whether or not it works in that context. But what I can tell you is that this score should be avoided, unless you truly love this genre of music. A disappointing score, from a great composer.

Highlights:
Escape
The Everyday Bible
Through Falling Snow*

Individual Piece Scores:
The Lord's Prayer-78
I Can't Find Them-33
The Search Party-52
Surveillance Video-59
The Candlelight Vigil-49
Escape-80
The Tall Man-76
The Everyday Bible-84
Following Keller-57
Through Falling Snow-98*
The Keeper-86
The Intruder-50
The Priests Basement-42
The Snakes-17
The Trans Am-48
Prisoners-79

Junkie Score: 51

Want to see what I'm listening to? Follow me on Spotify at Callum Hofler!