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  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • Back Lot Music / 2015 / 49m

Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan as a woman who joins the Women’s Social and Political Union in early 20th century Britain, fighting for greater rights for women, most importantly the right to vote.  Written by Abi Morgan and directed by Sarah Gavron, with Meryl Streep in a supporting role, it’s received a slightly lukewarm reception, generally perceived as worthy but overly clichéd.Providing his first Oscar-bait score of the year is Alexandre Desplat, no stranger to working on this type of film.  It’s generally along the lines of his other British political dramas, The Queen and The King’s Speech, and also shares a few traits with last year’s Unbroken (he actually wrote this and recorded it over a year ago, around the same time as his work on that film).  As the album begins, Desplat’s little signature for this score – an electronic heartbeat – appears immediately.  It’s executed almost identically to the one Ennio Morricone placed into part of Mission to Mars, of all things, but what appears on top of it is of course entirely unrelated.  The main theme manages to be both stirring and yet refined, its best arrangement coming right at the start but the composer gets much mileage from it through the whole score, presenting it in a number of different guises.  One of my favourite variants comes in “Bombings”, where it serves as a kind of sprinkling of light over a turbulent piece of action underneath.

The other main theme is introduced in the second cue, “An Army”, and is a delicate affair for harp and strings (plucked and bowed), with subtle piano accompaniment.  It’s quite sad in its initial presentation but not without its playful side too, with a quiet determination evident in its breezy pace.  While straying away from his pair of themes, Desplat takes the score into some genuinely dark territory – “Beaten” is bleak and stark, later “Force-Fed” even more so – it’s an incredibly tense piece.  There’s a hint of The Ghost Writer about the action music of “Demonstration”, especially with the choppy low-register winds.  The score’s two longest cues are both near the end and are somewhat similar in construction – “Votes for Women” and “Epsom Derby” both feature strained fragments of the themes, more uplifting sections balancing against the dogged determination of the heartbeat, now more forceful and confident than earlier in the score (and Desplat’s trademark electronic pulse is also in evidence).  Suffragette doesn’t really offer much in the way of surprises, but there’s a reason the composer keeps doing this kind of music for this kind of film and that’s because it works so well.  It may not be one of his more striking efforts, but this is another score of great class that will certainly appeal to his fans.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. Addie (Reply) on Sunday 29 November, 2015 at 22:46

    Thanks for such a detailed review, James! You had me at “heart beat” like Morricone’s “Mission to Mars”, which I also liked. However, the clincher for me was “organ, harp, and piano” together! I’m hoping to see the movie this week, but after your review, I’ll probably download the score first! If it’s as beautiful as the Queen score, it’s a MUST HAVE for me!!! …Addie

  2. Lucas (Reply) on Wednesday 2 December, 2015 at 23:33

    Nice score.
    Have you listened to Cinderella, James? Another outstanding piece of 2015