By Paul West
Soundtracks are generally at their best when you’re only occasionally aware of their presence. If, every so often, you realize your heart’s pounding a bit harder or you’re a bit more afraid of what’s behind that door, because of the pulse-pounding drumbeat–that’s means the score is doing its job. When the music is overwhelming or melodramatic, as in movies such as Shutter Island, it detracts from the movie’s credibility and can add to an air of cheesiness. With the exception of soundtracks that are clearly albums unto themselves–such as anything by The RZA or Quentin Tarantino–it’s best that a movie’s score fit neatly into its ecosystem, enhancing its strengths and boosting its weaknesses. Marco Beltrami’s musical score for the upcoming World War Z film seems to strike just such a balance.
World War Z focuses on the journey of Gerry Lane, a United Nations employee who must leave behind his family to help stop the epidemic that seems to be creating ‘zombies’ and collapsing civilization. Beltrami’s score feels appropriate for the ebb and flow of such a movie.
The opening track, “Philadelphia,” is chugging and percussive, putting the listener on edge as it rumbles to a booming transition. This is followed by “The Lane Family,” an expansive, airy prelude to the rolling and jittery “Ninja Quiet.” The soundtrack becomes tamer and more atmospheric with “Searching For Clues,” and after something of an extended calm, the tone begins to alternate between eerie, meandering quiet and string-driven, manic frenzy (The sixth track, “Zombies In Coach,” is well suited for its title). The ending is strong, with an outro that combines its percussive elements with its string-dominant, windy insistence and then fades into a solid theatrical ending.
The film version of World War Z is reputed to be more action-driven than the introspective novel on which it’s based, and Beltrami’s score seems to support this reputation. The general impression is one of imminent danger interspersed with periods of explosive action.
Veteran film composer Marco Beltrami hasn’t re-invented the wheel with the soundtrack to World War Z, but he has provided us with a layered, thrill-driven sonic experience. It’s a good backdrop for what appears to be a good movie, and it has made me look forward to experiencing the soundtrack and the film together on the big screen.