Latest reviews of new albums:
The Next Three Days
  • Composed by Danny Elfman
  • Lions Gate Records 80018 / 2010 / 71:27

After the success of Crash, director Paul Haggis wrote a couple of James Bond films, a couple of films directed by Clint Eastwood and directed the reasonable In the Valley of Elah.  The prolific filmmaker gets back in the director’s chair for the thriller The Next Three Days, starring Russell Crowe as a man who tries to break his wife out of prison, where she finds herself after being falsely accused of murder.  Haggis seemed to have a strong relationship with composer Mark Isham (whose Crash music was outstanding) but for whatever reason, Isham wasn’t on hand this time, the scoring duties instead heading to Danny Elfman, writing his third and final score of 2010.  It’s pretty low-key for a thriller score, Elfman choosing to use his music as a somewhat ambient accompaniment to the film rather than attempting to provide the energy to drive it along – an approach very similar to that Isham has taken to plenty of scores for this type of film, in fact.

The more ambient material is OK for what it is; while few people would pick this piece of Elfman’s bag of tricks as their favourite, he certainly does it well in terms of supporting a film.  Sustained strings, synth pads and repeated electric guitar chords are used to good effect.  From the album’s point of view, the trouble is that sustained strings, synth pads and repeated electric guitar chords don’t make for the most fascinating listening; and they make up the bulk of the opening 40 minutes.  Some of the harmonic progressions are quite beautiful, but they can only do so much.  Occasionally the composer opts to stay purely orchestral, as with the excellent, moving “All is Lost”; these passages are impressive.  As the album progresses, the pace increases a little and there is slightly more of a feeling of the music going somewhere.  The use of a wailing, wordless female vocalist may evoke unpleasant memories of one of the less pleasant dominant features of film music of a decade ago, but it’s quite effective here (and, mercifully, nowhere near so ubiquitous through film music as a whole).  There’s plenty of music on this album which is strong, in fact, and I’m sure it could have made a very solid 40-minute CD.  At just over 70 minutes (including a couple of Moby songs), it is a hard slog to get through it all, particularly the opening two thirds – nothing in isolation has much wrong with it at all, it just gets rather dull after a while.  Fortunately, it ends much more impressively; a pity the album isn’t better-produced, since I suspect it could have been a real winner.  ***

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  1. Karol (Reply) on Sunday 20 February, 2011 at 18:05

    I just listened to it a couple of times and I have to admit I’m pleasantly surprised. If anything, it proves Elfman is willing to stay out of his comfort zone and use a limited palette very well. I think in a way this way more exciting than his “Alice”. The album might be a tad too long indeed, but it is still a fine score. Few scores of this kind work just as well as this one. This kind of Elfman would be a perfect match for Christopher Nolan’s movies.

    Oh apparently Isham wouldn’t work on the film due to his fallout with scientologist church, of which Isham is a devoted member. It was quite heavily publicized actually. Bizzare.

    BTW love your site 🙂