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Comments about the soundtrack for The Thin Red Line (Hans Zimmer)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review #2
• Posted by: Sean O'Neill   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009, at 7:09 a.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Sean O'Neill was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in May, 2009)

The Thin Red Line: (Hans Zimmer) For a long time Hans Zimmer has done what is best for the films he works on, creating a score that flows in sequence with what has been presented before him, showing off and making the films, sometimes better than they actually are. The Thin Red Line, for me, is a perfect example of doing what is in the ideals of the film, it's director and it's presentation on screen. When scoring the film, he was asked by the director to use little or no electronics in the process for creating the film's music. This, Zimmer followed. There were, of course, exceptions which where made with the aid of his co-worker Jeff Rona, who created the "Visceral Ambience" which encompasses the droning orchestral sounds often heard throughout the score. As well as many of the Taiko drum motifs, which are brought to a fully accented statement in "Journey To The Line." Unfortunately, the version appearing on the album uses the Taiko drums as a background motif rather than having them appear in the forefront as they did in the film. Much like As Good As It Gets, one of the final cues in the film is performed on Zimmer's arsenal of orchestral samples produced by The London Symphony.

Most would think that in Zimmer's past performances with The Peacemaker and Crimson Tide etc., that The Thin Red Line would be met with harsh militaristic undertones and jutting action rhythms. This is entirely wrong. For the most part, his score remains at an emotional depth with the film's characters and the director's, Terrence Malick's, own vision of God, the fear of dying and the destruction that war can bring upon the human spirit. The music has a religious undertone in some areas, such as the choral music sung by the local natives on Guadalcanal is transposed into full orchestral performances, sampled with the choir in "God U Tekem Laef Belong Mi." Also the use of the hymn "Christian Race," representing of one of the main characters played by Elias Koteas, highlighted in "The Coral Atoll" and "Light." This is in contrast to the theme used for Colonel Tall, played by Nick Nolte. Zimmer uses, what is in a sense, the closest sign of any militaristic motif on the album, a hauntingly dark theme which progresses into a full march before setting quietly into the hinted Thin Red Line theme.

Perhaps Hans Zimmer's finest single cue for a film appears as "Journey To The Line." The introduction to this track is brought on by subtle Taiko and woodwind riffs before the strings creep in with the progressing rhythm brought on by the Taiko drums and the ascending/descending woodwinds. The strings take hold on the forefront, leading through the rhythmically building theme for The Thin Red Line. Throughout the album, up until this point, the theme is only hinted with interweaving themes in "The Coral Atoll" and "The Lagoon." The growing theme is joined by an impressive backing of Taiko drums and added strings which enter an added perspective on the building of the full emotional statement in this track. At (4:16) into the track, signals the fully stated performance of the theme, relentless and emotional, backed with controlled blasts from the Taiko drums which brings it to an end at (4:56), segueing back into it's original ambience before building into a highly emotional and pitched performance of this theme. In the film, as stated above, this theme is backed by the heavy rhythm of the Taiko drums which, for some reason, are toned down on the album version making this track less effective than it could have been.

The music is much more thorough in the film, which is a shame for the album and the listener's sake, the album leaves out key tracks from the film. These tracks include the incredible performance of "Jisas Yu Holem Hand Blong Mi" orchestrated for strings. The original choir version is available on the follow-up album by Media Ventures sound designer Claude Lettesier, a very good CD. As well, pieces written for the journey sequences after the soldiers land on Guadalcanal and the airy theme music written for the film's main character, Witt, played by Jim Caviezel. It's fortunate to have the additional music from John Powell and Francesco Lupica. Both pieces highlight the Cosmic Beam instrumentation, Lupica's piece signals the troops desperate attempt to capture the Japanese positions on Hill 210 in a surreal sequence into the loss of innocence, while Powell's dark and ominous track intercuts between the search for the Japanese bunker and a soldier's fleeting visions of his love, his wife.

Hans Zimmer's ability to collaborate with other musicians and composers, whether they be his co-workers (i.e. John Powell, Jeff Rona, Claude Lettessier etc.) or with new talents such as Francesco Lupica, never ceases to amaze me. This album, as well with his two previous CDs for The Peacemaker and The Prince of Egypt, exhibit a more emotionally-driven change of pace than "regular" musical style. As a whole, I feel this score represents Zimmer's best work to date, it is both emotionally compelling and brilliant in its structure. His future line up with The Gladiator (incredible music contained on the soundtrack, rivals The Thin Red Line, IMHO, of course) and Mission: Impossible II can only promise more goodies. *****

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