The Way Back (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Way Back was an okay movie, an occasionally ‘good’ or at least thoughtful movie – but where it’s been heralded as a great sports drama, the real story was the one of addiction and attempts at redemption; not really a sports drama at all then. But the drama was so well served and at times set up by Rob Simonsen’s score. In fact, as good as Ben Affleck was (and it’s a solid performance from him) the real star of this movie, for me, from opening notes, was the music.
In fact I Googled to find out who was behind the music within minutes of the film starting.
Rob Simonsen is a journeyman composer who started out contributing additional music to scores and collaborating with the great Mychael Danna and across the last decade he’s built his name and brand by turning out constantly solid work across a range of story-genres from animated family films to comedy and drama. (He’s worked in this area of film before with great musical moments for the movies Moneyball and Foxcatcher, among others. And of humorous coincidental note, to me anyway, is that Simonsen also composed the score to a film The Way, Way Back).
Here it’s about human stoicism, about heart, humanity. And we feel that all instantly in Simonsen’s music. So much so that the music is a joy to listen to away from the film also – soft piano voicings (an upright, close-mic’d) give off some of the feel and flow of recent works by Max Richter and Nils Frahm. Olafur Arnalds too, another touchstone.
Speaking of touchstones, some of the percussion is supplied by the sound of basketballs hitting the floor (a nod to Hoosiers I would guess) and the sound-design in the film is sumptuous.
But I’m most enamoured of this music post-movie; whilst there are cues that exist of and for the action (Rematch Pt.1) nothing needs to be skipped when listening to this as an album-experience. And most of the cues are beautiful, relaxing musical motifs to soundtrack your reading or quiet contemplation. There’s also that great film composing trick where the main theme is evoked, super subtly, throughout the whole score. Just a snatch of piano – a mere handful of notes – sets up ever revisitation. In that way, and of course there are many others that do it, I think of Randy Newman’s score-work, perhaps particularly his fine efforts soundtracking The Natural. A movie that has some similar themes. In that way too, you feel Simonsen as eternal film student, a composer retracing the steps of the earlier masters while carving his own unique path.
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