- Composed by Marco Beltrami
- Warner Bros. / 2013 / 44m
A film that seemed to be in a lot of trouble, with well-publicised reshoots, World War Z may not have turned out so badly after all, based on the early reviews. It’s hard to see how you could go too far wrong, really – a “zombie pandemic” is spreading across the world, and mankind’s last best hope for survival is Brad Pitt. Oddly, the studio wanted it to be made so it would be suitable for kids, which presumably makes it a lot less gory than it would otherwise have been, but still – you can’t have everything. Director Marc Forster – heavily-criticised on Quantum of Solace because people saw him as an arthouse filmmaker trying in vain to make an action movie – continues his arthouse credentials here.
The music comes courtesy of the prolific Marco Beltrami, who says he hates horror movies and never watches them, but seemingly scores approximately fifteen every year. Beltrami’s style certainly lends itself to the genre – he has a very modern orchestral sensibility, often favouring aggressive, darker sounds. World War Z is one of his most aggressive and darkest scores so far. The tone is set immediately in the bleak “Philadelphia” – dissonant textures mix with blaring action, for a portentous opening. ”The Lane Family” presents a melodic theme, but it’s far from a happy one – this is no picnic-in-the-sunshine music, it’s sadness and despair.
From after that point, the music barely lets up at all in conveying desperate terror, but it does it in two ways. The score features an array of percussion – the composer even, creatively, uses the sound of teeth banging against the skeletons of feral pigs. Apparently that technique was suggested to him by his friend Tommy Lee Jones – and there’s something strangely wonderful about that. The sound produced is certainly evocative – a perfect zombie accompaniment, really. ”Zombies in Coach” is a wonderful piece of action music. Somewhat alarmingly, Hans Zimmer’s HORN OF DOOM is in it (and elsewhere in the score), but it’s backed up by frantic string music and that ever-present percussion giving such a sense of momentum, the piece getting ever more frantic as it veers towards its thrilling conclusion. Later, “The Salvation Gates” pushes the volume up to the limit, not to mention the thrills.
There are a few of those pulse-pounding action pieces on the album, but also a few much lower-key tracks that don’t pack the same immediate wallop – then on closer inspection and deeper listening do still draw me in and hold both my attention and my tension. (I’m not sure that makes any sense, but it seemed quite a cute thing to say.) There are electronics used throughout, but only ever to augment what is primarily orchestral music; and the augmentation is done in a way that adds at times a very unsettling sound, particularly through various subtle stereo sound effects that can send a chill down the spine. It’s oddly captivating – not a great deal really happens in the suspenseful “Searching for Clues” yet somehow it has me on the edge of my seat. (The Goldsmithian piano figure is a wonderful touch.) Towards the end of the album, “Wales” offers just the slightest hint of hope, for the first time really in the score. If they’ve gone to Wales, perhaps they’re hoping to eat some leeks or go for a walk along the beach at Aberdovey, always a lovely thing to do, so it’s no surprise there’s a bit of hope in the music. The actual finale, “Like a River Around a Rock”, isn’t exactly full of brightness and optimism, but it does eventually turn that way and brings things to a rousing close.
The album doesn’t perhaps provide the obvious thrills of Beltrami’s most popular scores, but it feels like there’s something going on at a deeper level here, there’s a clear purpose to all the music and it’s executed very well. At a shade under three quarters of an hour, the album’s the perfect length given the material – any longer and it would suffer the danger of the spell the composer so carefully casts simply becoming too much. It’s such a dark score, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly easy to enjoy, but there’s an incredible technique on display and it’s certainly easy enough to be impressed by that. Recommended.
Rating: *** 1/2