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Soul Surfer
  • Composed by Marco Beltrami
  • Madison Gate Records / 2011 / 46:21

After one of her arms is bitten off by a shark, 13-year-old surfer Bethany Hamilton somehow managed to become a champion in the field.  The inspirational true story is told in Soul Surfer, a film by Sean McNamara, rather different from what he usually makes (his previous film was The Suite Life Movie – and, not that this has much to do with anything, he has extremely strange hair – Google him).  For the music, Marco Beltrami was brought on board – the versatile composer has always worked on a good spread of projects, but is still now (and will probably forever be) best known for his work on horror films.  

Inspirational true stories are, of course, ripe fodder for decent film composers, and Beltrami is certainly one of those, so Soul Surfer makes for a very satisfying, very enjoyable album.  It has some original touches – the composer puts Hawaiian chanting at the heart of several key sequences, giving the music a unique flavour which raises it above the norm.  The opening title music sets the tone for this – it’s a beautifully mellow song, lush and melodic to an extent not usually associated with this composer.  Vocals are also used in some of the score’s darkest moments – a deep warbling not unlike throat singing accompanies these, and it’s a surprisingly effective device – “Shark Attack” being a particular highlight of this style.

Marco Beltrami

The tender piano theme of “Bethany and Dad” is extremely beautiful – one of the most affecting melodies I’ve heard from Beltrami.  This begins a sequence of beautiful music which is a showcase for the composer’s underappreciated talents in that regard; this culminates in “Hymn for Bethany”, a lilting piece dominated by a beautiful guitar solo before climaxing with a performance of the main theme by the full orchestra and choir.

The faster-paced “action” music has a lovely, folksy edge to it which brings to mind Mark Isham’s Fly Away Home, one of the greatest scores of the 1990s – the wonderful “Back in the Water” is perhaps the best example, though it does seem to have a degree of triumphant finality about it which is odd given that it appears so early on the album (and presumably in the film).  Musically, though, it’s unimpeachable.  This is a lovely score, showing off a side of Marco Beltrami which has been heard before, but rarely in anything high-profile.  He has been one of the most consistently impressive film composers in the last few years and this score is bound to become one of 2011’s most popular.  ****

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  1. Michael (Reply) on Tuesday 17 May, 2011 at 12:41

    Very good score. One of the best of 2011, which is turning out to be a great year for scores. I’d love to see you tackle a review of ‘The Tree of Life’ soon.

  2. Sara Andon (Reply) on Thursday 14 July, 2011 at 19:23

    Exquisite, beautiful writing….brings every emotion throughout the movie, visually and psychologically, to the fore, in an incredibly original and engaging way. It posesses a soul that is as deep as the ocean — and stands as a marvelous piece of art on its own. Once again, Beltrami demonstrates his great versatility and tremendous musical and creative talents that is clearly world class . No doubt one of the top scores for 2011….