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Comments about the soundtrack for Contact (Alan Silvestri)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Todd China
• Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, at 9:05 a.m.
• IP Address: donated.filmtracks.com

(The following donated review by Todd China was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in May, 2009)


Contact: (Alan Silvestri) I knew I wanted the soundtrack at the moment when Ellie hears the alien signal for the first time and Alan Silvestri's music cuts a jagged figure with frenetic violins. The score contains a handful of terrific, enjoyable moments that remind me why I admire Silvestri so much. Listening to this score can be a frustrating experience, however; it is an uneven effort that almost achieves greatness but falls short because of a weak main theme.

The main theme for Contact bears similarities to Forrest Gump, and it is neither as striking nor memorable as anything in that film. Evidently, Contact received the main theme it deserved, since the director, Robert Zemeckis, aims for the heart in order to evoke sympathy for Ellie Arroway's character. As an adult, she is cold, driven, and almost obsessed in her quest, but the scenes of Ellie's childhood are designed to make her more human. Accordingly, Silvestri responds by supplying an innocuous, saccharine, and very sentimental theme for Ellie Arroway's character.

This score is at its best when Silvestri's music roots itself in dramatic ideas rather than simple emotions. "Ellie's Bogey" and "Good to Go" are the two outstanding examples, with a few snippets of interesting music to be heard in other parts of the score. "Ellie's Bogey" conveys a sense of urgency, and the rapidly repeated string passages represent the musical equivalent of the alien signal. Silvestri makes wonderful use of the brass section as the music carries with it a shade of darkness and a possible menace associated with the unknown. "The Primer," as Silvestri himself noted, contains a duality of sorts; near the end of the piece, the strings briefly state Ellie's theme while the synths play an appropriately mysterious, alien motif. Here, Silvestri fuses the film's intellectual quality with its emotional core.

Together, tracks 7, 8, and 9 ("Media Event," "Button Me Up," and "Good to Go") form a solid, entertaining block of music. "Media Event" is a short but soaring piece reminiscent of Judge Dredd, "Button Me Up," with its swelling string theme, nearly approaches, but doesn't reach the glorious climax of, the musical heights of "Bud on the Ledge" from The Abyss, and "Good to Go" is an exciting cue that accompanies Ellie's launch; "Good to Go" is one of the best things Silvestri has written in years, and it effectively underscores the idea of the alien signal once more, with the use of a simple triplet theme that rises and falls, over and over, throughout the piece. I like the way Silvestri, early in the cue, begins with the string bass playing a rapid sixteenth note passage, which is passed on to the upper strings until the brass finally makes a bold and hard-edged entrance. The cue rises in intensity that nicely matches the dramatic intensity onscreen as the countdown to launch winds down to zero.

Unfortunately, the final third of the score is not nearly as good as all the music came before. The cues for Ellie's arrival and her conversation with the alien are underscored with quiet and thin atmospheric synths, as well as the main theme, making for an anticlimactic and dull finale. All in all, Contact is a good score that contains a handful of interesting ideas and two brilliant moments ("Ellie's Bogey" and "Good to Go"), but with a better main theme, it could have been much more dramatically interesting and cohesive. ***






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