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3:10 to Yuma - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

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by Chris McEneany Jan 24, 2008

  • Movies review

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    3:10 to Yuma - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review
    After a curious delay - presumably to allow punters to opt for its initial downloadable version - Marco Beltrami's terrific score for 3.10 To Yuma finally gets its official CD release. Already regarded highly enough by Academy voters to have been awarded an Oscar Nomination, a first for Beltrami, this score is a sensationally moody exercise in western throwback, modern percussive drive and dark character-based themes that manages, quite incredibly and infectiously, to blend the iconography of Ennio Morricone's gorgeous Spaghetti scores with Beltrami's own experimental sound creations and harmonies without once resorting to cliché, pastiche or plagiarism. It is an awesome achievement, but still one that is, perhaps, an acquired taste for many people who still believe that the western has to have a particular sound and a particular style.

    There are three main themes that circle around this score - one each for the main characters of Ben Wade and Dan Evans and one that signifies Wade's gang, although this comes to primarily evoke the devoted lunacy of his second-in-command, Charlie Prince. For more filmic information and relevance, please read my review for the BD release of the film. These three themes interweave throughout the score, playing in variations that can run at tangents, or pace one another before finally colliding and then merging together. Beltrami brings to use a diverse range of instruments to the table - from pump organ, tack piano and nylon guitars to banjo, fiddle, flute and some unique tools of Native Indian percussion - and a lot of equally unusual ways of playing them. The composer is an often overlooked but considerable talent. With a resume that is surprisingly varied and evocative - from the ambient tones of dread, laced with electronica for The Omen remake (even brazen enough to manage a homage to Jerry Goldsmith's original and immortal Ave Satani) to the driving futuristic action of I, Robot, and from the Latin-flavoured frights of Mimic to the fabulously lush, sweeping and hugely dynamic Hellboy, both for Guillermo Del Toro - he has really only brushed with the western once before with The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada with its eloquent Tex-Mex design. 3.10 To Yuma, though, is both more in-tune with what we expect from a horse-opera and cannily left-field, as well. The original movie had a title track sung by Frankie Lane, the tune of which runs through the entire score for the film - composed by George Duning - and is even being whistled by one of the main characters on occasion. For the remake, both director James Mangold and Marco Beltrami decided to move out into darker territories and the result is a score that is intimate, haunted and full of portentously tormented tones. Yet it is also fast and frenetic, stippled with rhythm and an energy that captures the wild openness of the country and the bleak nature of those who roam across it.

    After a easy, drifting introduction, Track 2 does an awesome job of bringing in both of the lead characters' themes and playing them at their fullest stretch. The scene is set and their poles-apart motivations set in stone with a catch-all cue that is as eloquent as it is melancholy. Track 5 - Barn Burn - opens with a John Powell-like Jason Bourne motif of jangling, frenzied agitation before then segueing quite smartly into James Newton Howard territory akin to his piercing string pieces for Shyamalan's Signs and then softening-out into a gentle guitar that strikes out into thoughtful and sombre new lands, adding dusky texture to the pot.

    Beltrami's strange Native Indian instrumentation comes into play in Track 7, evoking a sense of mystery and danger. The employing of a mandolin, a harmonica and the brittle buzz of a processed jaw-harp create a deliciously western sound that also bolsters the looming rhythm and will become the main emphasis that will course throughout the score. Track 8 starts with Dan Evans' theme, then rapidly escalates into a brilliant action cue that pounds and drives along at a fair clip. Remarkably, you can hear strains of Philip Glass-style string excess rising above the deceptively complex orchestration that is taking place, and a delicious final flurry of violins scorch the track before long, slow mourning smoothes out its final passage. What the score is doing is delivering the expected slowly-drawn twang and heartbeat of a slow-burn western tempo with the core strength of the film's psychological torment forcing its way through. This is perfectly highlighted with Track 9's strong sense of character, which may start out as three entirely separate themes but, come the end, will have enmeshed with one another in a transition so smooth that you probably never noticed it taking place.

    Track 11 is another grand action cue. Once more, Beltrami uses frantic strings and vibrant ensembles to give the cue's dissonance colour and edge. The surging power of the track is slightly akin to that of Hans Zimmer's awesome Tribal Warfare from his score for Black Hawk Down. There is some great tub-thumping going on underneath it all, the track going briefly hell-for-leather before descending into the murk of moral ambiguity. The following track, Ben There Done That, carries on this psychological quagmire with shivering chords and swelling undercurrent. Track 13 contains some beautiful “clustered” chords that greet the arrival of Wade's gang and there is a certain feel of Michael Kamen's original Die Hard in the subdued depth of the build-up as it progresses.

    And build-up is the name of the game for the next few tracks too, Beltrami cranking up the tension and stacking the odds against us, with muted but insistent percussion pounding away and long nervous notes that conjure up visions of a distant horizon that some of the film's characters may never reach. Again, there is some unusual instrumentation employed but the series of cues are dominated by a soft acoustic guitar denoting that the time is nigh, reverberating gently over skittish strings in It's Time and then meandering in lost melancholy in Hotel. Violins add even more resonance in One Man Left until final Spanish twiddlings ease into a pensive, yet inexorable tone of breathless anticipation.

    Then we reach the awesome Track 19, which brings everything together for a last-ditch thematic overdrive. The scene in question is when Wade and Evans make that bullet-dodging run for the station through what is virtually a building site. In the film, director James Mangold lets the score rise above all else, lifting the sense of doomed obligation and that friendship-under-fire bond between the two main characters. It is also here, more than anywhere else, that Beltrami pays homage to Morricone. Starting out with a plaintiff and lonely horn-call, the cue begins to slowly build into a tragic yet fast-paced timpani, hauling in all sorts of themes beneath a continually driving beat. Partially reminiscent of the battle cues from Master And Commander, that catchy tub-thumping is soon lost beneath doubled-up guitars playing in earnest, the jaw-harp coming in and then the main Italian-sounding chords that tremble through the track like the thundering of the 3.10, itself. When that solo trumpet kicks in, a wave of sheer nostalgia mixes with Beltrami's fateful heroism, combining to form a finale that tells its own story - perfectly in-tune with the visuals in the film, yet wonderfully poignant and strikingly adaptable even divorced from them. For a cue that is 2.35 minutes long, there is a surprising amount of power and emotion captured within it and even if this CD only had this one track on it I would still have happily splashed out on it and then recommend that all and sundry do likewise. For me, this track sums up the entire score and the film - searing, pulse-pounding, doom-laden and over too soon! Track 20 is another brilliant piece that offers heavy straining chords on electric guitar that remind me of some of the exotic sounds to be found in Joseph Lo Duca's excellent score for Les Pacte Des Loups (Brotherhood Of The Wolf), and then the album bows out on the soft title theme, that now embraces the three themes that have vied for supremacy throughout the score, part-salute, part lament - all wonderful.

    Marco Beltrami combines several distinct styles with this score - the up-tempo modernist bravado of contemporary action, albeit with unusual instruments, the surging European flavour of intensely dark characterisation and, thankfully, plenty of pure sand-in-your-face, spur-jangling western swagger. It is most certainly not the stereotypical score for such a movie, but this is what makes it a clear sharpshooter in a genre that has so many classics to boast of. The sound of the electric guitar speaks fondly of many a sixties TV-show, but in a good way, and that unique cosmopolitan atmosphere can actually put you in mind of the intoxicatingly brooding qualities of an early seventies giallo picture. This is pretty good stuff when you think about it and goes to prove that the genre can still inspire great and highly stylised work. Marco Beltrami is up against some stiff opposition in the Oscar showdown (Dario Marianelli for Atonement, Michael Giacchino for Ratatouille amongst them) but, unless the Academy voters nominated him as nothing more than a novelty wildcard at the saloon table, there's every reason to suspect that he will be the last man standing at the ceremony. Here's hoping, Marco. I'm rootin' for yer!

    This disc is the American release. It comes in a carded gatefold sleeve that has a very iconic image of Ben Foster's homicidal Charlie Prince on the cover that purposely evokes memories of Clint's The Man With No Name. Inside are stark images of Russell Crowe's Ben Wade and Christian Bale's Dan Evans, and a brief note on the score from the director James Mangold.

    Full Track Listing is as follows -

    1.Main Title (1:07)
    2. Ben Takes the Stage/Dan's Burden (5:46)

    3. Man of His Word (0:59)

    4. Bisbygliando (1:23)

    5. Barn Burn (2:03)

    6. Chinatown (1:39)

    7. Indian Grounds (2:50)

    8. Chinese Democracy (2:52)

    9. One for the Road/Storm Clouds (4:12)

    10. Trial by Fire (1:58)

    11. Flight of the Princess (1:59)

    12. Ben There Done That (1:36)

    13. Gang Arrives (1:42)

    14. Ben Arrested (4:00)

    15. It's Time (1:02)

    16. Hotel (0:41)

    17. One Man Left (3:07)

    18. William Escapes (1:45)

    19. Bible Study (2:35)

    20. Who Let the Cows Out? (1:32)

    21. The 3:10 to Yuma (2:07)

    Verdict

    Well, I praised Beltrami's score in my review for the film's BD release and I can assure you that it is actually even better when heard as its own continuous album. The running time may be relatively brief - at just over the forty-minute mark - but it packs a strong thematic wallop and has many interesting little atmospheric meanderings along the way. The echoes of the past, essentially Morricone, are utterly exquisite and wholly respectful and the use of some searing strings bring a hint of electrifying suspense to the mix that sound almost like a cue from a horror film - again, a gamble that Beltrami takes that pays off quite handsomely. The fact is that I would recommend this disc even if the only track on it that was any good was Track 19 - it is that good.

    At the time of writing, the Oscars have yet to be dished out. I have the soundtracks for the other candidates as well ... a couple of which I may even review (Dario Marianelli's Atonement and Michael Giacchino's Ratatouille more than likely) ... but I would dearly love it for Beltrami to take the statuette for this offbeat and unusual score. So, place your bets, folks.

    Needless to say, I thoroughly recommend this disc.

    The Rundown

    Movie

    9

    Overall

    9

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