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The Edge
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • La-La Land LLLCD 1131 / 2010 / 66:15

A classic man vs beast / man vs man story, The Edge might not have attracted my attention if it weren’t for the fact that it’s written by David Mamet.   His smart dialogue elevates the film above the norm – as do the two great actors in the leads (Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin) and Lee Tamahori’s direction, though his career since suggests this may unfortunately have been a one-off.   Add gorgeous locations and great music and you have a terrific film, one of my own favourites from the 1990s. 

Jerry Goldsmith was as productive as ever in the year of this score (a year which also saw LA Confidential and Air Force One) – and this stands out as one of the highlights of his later career. For one thing, it’s got one of his biggest, most sweeping, memorable themes (“Lost in the Wild”) – Tamahori had temp-tracked that sequence with Trevor Jones’s Last of the Mohicans and Goldsmith responded with a piece with just as much pomp and majesty, but it’s a far more fluid and interesting composition.

The bulk of the rest of the score is made up of action and suspense music. As usual, Goldsmith delivers this with panache. What’s notable here is that this is one of the very few scores from the last 20 years of his career not to feature any synths, and while I am a great admirer of the way the composer used to blend electronics into the orchestra, it’s actually pretty wonderful to hear him deliver such explosive action music as here just using the orchestra. A pair of cues which follow each other in the middle of the album (“Stalking” and “Deadfall”) represent the composer at the peak of his powers when it comes to this sort of film – the former going on a trail of suspense (and with so much dull suspense music around in films, I don’t think there’s a single living film composer who couldn’t learn a thing or two by studying how this cue is constructed) while the latter offers the explosive payoff.

Jerry GoldsmithThe RCA Victor album released at the time of the film presented a very satisfying listening experience; this new release from La-La Land adds in over twenty minutes of additional music and, while all of the highlights were on the old album, actually hearing the music in this fashion (chronologically as heard in the film) reveals how cleverly constructed a musical story it is. Several of the previously-unreleased cues are softer (there are a few variations on the main theme) which also allows a few more spaces for breathing in between the score’s more intense music – making this limited edition an easy one to recommend.

There will probably never be another Jerry Goldsmith, someone able to construct music this intelligent and this interesting for a film like The Edge. While (particularly in the later years) there were unmistakable similarities from one action score to the next, there has still not been anyone able to come close to matching the intensity and excitement he could generate in his action music. Hearing the propulsive, driving force he created through the relentless rhythms in his various action scores is one of the great highlights of all film music, and The Edge combines that with a killer main theme and some wonderful suspense music for a wonderful album.  ****

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