Musings About Music In Film

The Walk

the-walk-zemeckis-poster It’s almost hard to believe that Alan Silvestri and Robert Zemeckis have worked together on fifteen feature films and over the past 31 years of artistic collaboration. The Walk is their latest creation. The story of a man who decided to walk on a wire between the twin towers of World Trade Centre back in 1974 looks like an unlikely feature for a successful feature-length drama. Seems like a perfect material for a documentary (which already happened in 2008’s Man on Wire), not necessarily a good material for a big budget Hollywood project. In any case, it all works very well apparently and the film is getting strong responses.

Alan Silvestri’s score is quite unlike anything you’d expect of him. For the most part, it stays away from both his heavy-handed boisterous muscular blockbuster sound and overly sappy melodrama (Forest Gump, anyone?). Elements of those two are present throughout, of course, but there's more variety in The Walk than there was in any other recent score from this composer. On top of that, it's lighter and more refreshing. And strikes just a right balance between period setting, heartfelt drama and mischief. Just a perfect way to portray the main protagonist played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

It starts off in a fairly predictable manner. ‘Pourquoi? opens with a lonely piano is backed by melancholic strings. About halfway through the cue we switch into a big band jazz source music. ‘Young Philippe’ brings in French tones married to slightly carnivalesque material. It is not, however, as overused here as you might expect. There is also a 1970’s jazz, not quite unlike Lalo Schifrin’s thriller scores of the era (‘Spy Work’). It adds a sense of the fun to Petit’s bold schemes and is a nice, if somewhat unsubtle, call to a different point in history.

There is also a slightly more tense side to The Walk that ties more strongly to composer’s bigger works. It leads very nicely into the film’s climax, as the stakes become higher. In ‘Full of Doubt’, Silvestri, perhaps unintentionally, alludes to his own secondary mysterious Tesseract theme from Marvel films (Captain America: The First Avenger and Marvel’s The Avengers). The following cue, ‘Time Passes’, brings a shade of the action writing in its opening and closing moments. ‘’The Arrow’ lightens the mood slightly: Silvestri introduces a playful scherzo that becomes grander as the cue develops. The following track continues on with more serious action tone, with even a bigger sense of urgency.

Finally, we reach the fateful moment... ‘The Walk’ starts off with the uncertain Newman-like piano tones that soon develop into an emotional Horner-esque resolution. The late composer’s spirit is looming all over the final act, especially in ‘I Feel Thankful’. In the opening of this track, Silvestri quotes Beethoven’s ‘For Elise. The solo piano piece is arranged for piano and strings and turns into yet another suspenseful rhythmic action sequence.

The score reaches its resolution in the final two tracks - “There Is No Why” and “Perhaps You Brought Them To Life – Given Them A Soul”. It is a truly emotional climax, reaching the proportions of a more typical tradition of grand fairy tale Hollywood happy end. The ever-present twinkling piano dissolves into nothingness and ends the score and album on a satisfyingly whimsical and dreamy note.

The album from Sony Classical offers a nice warm and relaxing hour of music. It’s not as heavy going as Silvestri’s action scores and not quite as saccharine as some of his drama. There is a fine balance between pastiche and tension which helps to distinguish The Walk in composer’s recent repertoire and establish itself among his stronger works. A surprising highlight of 2015.

-Karol Krok

The Walk is out now from Sony Classical