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The Walk
  • Composed by Alan Silvestri
  • Madison Gate Records / 2015 / 56m

The Walk, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is a biographical film about French high-wire performer Philippe Petit’s walk between the two towers of New York’s World Trade Centre in 1974.  It seems a slightly strange thing to make a two-hour dramatic film about, but then again I suppose it was a slightly strange thing to do in the first place.  Petit’s stunt was unauthorised and attracted much publicity, and in 2008 a documentary (the very well-received Man on Wire).

The collaboration between director Zemeckis and composer Alan Silvestri is one of the most enduring in Hollywood.  This is their fifteenth movie together, an unbroken sequence which began in 1984 with Romancing the Stone and has encompassed numerous different styles and genres since, with The Walk occupying territory that they haven’t previously explored (the same was true of the previous movie in the collaboration, 2012’s Flight, for which Silvestri wrote a short score which is the only one of his scores for Zemeckis which so far hasn’t had an album release).

Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri

Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri

This score begins with “Pourquoi?” – after some gentle strings and twinkly piano, typical Silvestri really, warm and melodic, we get to the first sign that this is not going to be a wholly typical score for the composer after all, with some cool jazz.  It’s a rather odd and jarring transition from the one style to the other, though each is fine in isolation.  “Young Philippe” follows suit – gorgeous Silvestri magic opens the cue (à la Contact or Cosmos) when from nowhere comes this breezy French material – it’s not as jarring this time, but it isn’t entirely natural either.

“Two Loves” has some tentatively romantic music, with accordion joining the orchestra (it was inevitable, really) – it’s the first purely straight cue on the album and it’s a lovely one, wistful and charming.  “The Towers of Notre Dame” goes back to the previous style – little bursts of drama interspersed with laid-back easy listening charm.  Something else arrives in “It’s Something Beautiful”, with a surprisingly modern feel to parts of it, again like parts of Cosmos – for the first time in the score, there is some tension.  It doesn’t last though because in “Spy Work” Silvestri provides flat-out caper music in a standalone piece that’s a great deal of fun.

Up to that point, the music is engaging but somewhat incoherent in the way it flits about; fortunately the composer steers it on an even keel for most of the remaining 75% of the album.  This is largely in very familiar action/suspense territory for Silvestri, with echoes of numerous past works (“Time Passes” has a little action phrase that goes all the way back to Back to the Future).  I’m surprised the film allows the music to be quite as big as it frequently is – I didn’t know what to expect of the score before hearing it, but it certainly wasn’t that it would be this much like an action thriller.  A lengthy sequence of cues is exactly that and they are done well enough, but it really is very well-trodden ground for the composer, offering little that we haven’t heard before (albeit the incorporation of electronics is handled better than we’ve become accustomed to).  I do really like the James Horner-esque sweep to the action in “We Have a Problem”, which feels like a more distinctive piece than some of the others; and the pick of the action cues is “They Want to Kill You”, so dynamic and exciting in Silvestri’s best tradition.

In the more action-dominated “part two” of the score, there are some interludes which touch upon some of the softer ideas explored in the first half.  The six-minute “The Walk” (which presumably occurs at the movie’s pivotal moment) has some outstanding moments but also some very low-key meandering which is really not very engaging on the album – it’s such a pity because if all six minutes were as good as the three outstanding minutes then it would be one hell of a piece.  The last two cues, “There Is No Hope” and “Perhaps You Brought Them to Life – Given Them Hope” make for an emotional, sweeping conclusion and the latter in particular is almost worth the admission price for.  Before them, “I Feel Thankful” is another quirky piece in a score with no shortage of them, with a couple of minutes of “Für Elise” moving from the familiar piano into an odd orchestral arrangement and then seguing into stop-start Silvestri action, then sweeping romantic drama.  I’m sure it makes sense in the film…

And really, “I’m sure it works in the film” sums the score up.  The first part of the score is pleasant but very disjointed (pure film music, not coherent enough to work on album) and the second is much more engaging but generally sounding rather familiar, enlivened by twenty minutes or so of very fine material.  Alan Silvestri works rarely enough these days that each new project is a bit of an event, but unfortunately The Walk isn’t likely to live all that long in the memory, the moments of real quality certainly there but spread a little too thin.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Luc Van der Eeken (Reply) on Sunday 4 October, 2015 at 13:15

    I like this Silvestri effort. A lot of times he lays on the orchestration a bit thick (for me) but this score has a lighter touch. And I would almost say it has a bit of a Horner-vibe in the last couple of cues. I’d give it half a star more.

  2. tiago (Reply) on Wednesday 14 October, 2015 at 04:54

    Just watched the film today and, in context, the score works really very well, as in most of Silvestri/Zemeckis collaborations, including the very short Flight. The Horner nods, which I think that were from the temp track, didn’t bothered me much, and the music adds a whole dramatic dimension to the film (which is no masterpiece, but has its moments, specially at the end).

  3. Dan (Reply) on Wednesday 14 October, 2015 at 19:13

    “They Want to Kill You” definitely has a “Horner” feel to it. Some of the same chordal progressions and tonal quality. Reminds me some of Horner’s sneakers as well as Titantic and Avatar in parts. Good comparison!