Friday, 8 May 2015

child 44 - soundtrack review

child 44 is a mystery/thriller set in the soviet union in the 1950s. the film follows a disgraced security agent played by tom hardy who uncovers a serial killer plot involving the brutal murder of children but has to struggle to prove the killer’s existence in a society that doesn't believe in serial killers. To do so he must join forces with his wife played by noomi rapace and together they tackle a cover-up with national implications.

the score is by swedish composer jon ekstrand who has previously worked on a number of notable swedish and danish productions and regularly collaborates with child 44 director daniel espinosa. one of those projects was the swedish thriller easy money, starring joel kinnaman and currently being remade with zac efron. ekstand also has a background in sound design, which comes across in this unobtrusive yet effective score.

looking at ekstrand’s filmography he is clearly no stranger to the crime/thriller genre, and this comes through in the child 44 score. unlike some of ekstrand’s previous work, particularly the synth-based score for easy money, the child 44 score uses only acoustic instruments. as well as setting a grim tone, the acoustic soundtrack also does a great job invoking the period. there is also a huge amount of tension and mystery suggested by the music.

the score opens with a track that is both haunting and mysterious at first, but at the same time the cello part is tinged with sadness. the way the different string elements compete for attention on this track really tells the story of someone struggling against a power beyond their control. there are more subtle moments, such as the track ‘orphaned’, which starts with an ominous piano theme over a light string background and then transforms into something more tragic. many of the early tracks mirror this structure and really invoke the tragedy of what is happening in the story as well as the thriller element. later tracks, such as ‘the usual process’, really foreground the detective elements of the story and this track in particular really injects a sense of urgency into the score. there are also much darker moments, such as the track ‘meet the malevichs’, which almost sounds like something from a horror film. the final track, ‘leo & raisa demidov’ is a melancholic love theme that really tells the story of a couple that have been through a great struggle.

overall, the child 44 score is an effective piece of music that manages to remain emotionally charged whilst also injecting the required amount of tension and urgency when required. it is also incredibly dark and brooding in places, which really helps set the mood of the film. at it’s best moments it reminded me of jo yeong-wook’s score for oldboy, with it’s perfect balance of tragedy and tension. that said, for the most part this is a very safe soundtrack and does exactly what you would expect it to do. ekstrand may not take any real risks here, but then that’s not always a bad thing and the score works very well for the sensitive subject matter of the film.

the child 44 – original motion picture soundtrack is available digitally right now and will be released on cd on 12th May, 2015

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