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  • Composed by Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr
  • WaterTower Music / 2015 / 28m

Based on a true story and a 2007 documentary short of the same name, Freeheld stars Julianne Moore as a police officer in New Jersey who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, undergoes a tough battle to allow her pension benefits to transfer to her domestic partner (Ellen Page) following her death.  Peter Sollett’s emotive film was a particularly personal project for Page in particular (who was involved in it ever since the earlier short movie was released), though the early reviews have been rather mixed.

Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has been collaborating with Hans Zimmer since he played the distinctive twelve-string guitar solos on 2010’s Inception, being part of the team that came up with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and performing at the composer’s recent London concerts.  Freeheld sees the due receive joint credit as composers of the short score, which has received a release on WaterTower Music.

Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr

Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr

It’s a fairly low-key affair, largely ambient and textural, a small number of acoustic instruments with (of course) electric guitar and keyboards.  The opening “On the Case” starts in that ambient soundscape but comes to life with a kind of country rock guitar and drums providing a driving energy in the central part of the cue, retreating back to that opening sound for the ending (with a surprising dissonance added).  It’s an interesting piece, the chilled opening giving way to the determined motion and then uncomfortable resignation.

“Can I Have Your Number?” is more typical – a haunted quality to the guitar, very spare and minimal accompaniment – sleepy but not without a component of grit.  By contrast “House Hunting” is gentle, acoustic guitar this time joining the electric, a touch of dreamy romance about it – it’s a very pleasant, attractive piece, its simplicity giving it an emotional directness that works well.  The lengthy “Can’t Leave Her” (at seven minutes by far the longest cue on the album) also has a directness, this time a raw and vulnerable one, piano figures ghosting in and out for the first half of the cue before popping electronic beats give it some momentum – it’s slow, deliberate, effective at what it tries to do.

“The Decision” feels like a pivotal cue, ethereal textures part of a typical post-Inception Zimmer piece of driving drama, at least until the unexpected and unusual guitar work towards the end.  I like “Justice” – it’s sad and restrained for a period before a determined energy takes over; and then comes the finale, “Remembering”, an impassioned and more rock-based variant on the now-familiar “Time” model.

Freeheld is not a showy score at all, content to sit back and provide measured, respectful accompaniment to the film and as such it won’t get nearly the attention of most of Zimmer’s scores, but it’s certainly done well and shows a subtle side to the composer which is rarely heard.  The short album is not likely to be one that will end up as being more than a minor attachment to the Hans Zimmer juggernaut but it’s nice to hear something like this from him and it’s a pleasant album, albeit not a major one.

Rating: *** | |

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