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Soundtrack review: Lord of war (Antonio Pinto, 2005)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Lord of war (Antonio Pinto, 2005)


For me, Antonio Pinto is one of the easiest composers to recognize. He has a very distinctive sound, one which I happen to like a lot. There’s something about the multitude of South American or African instruments that he uses that strikes a chord (pun intended) with me. The exotic sound of many of his cues strikes deeper than one might expect, and I never get bored with his compositions.
“Lord of war” was the first Antonio Pinto score I ever heard. Again, it’s a score which has stuck with me; I haven’t forgotten it and I come back to it every now and then. It has an above average replay value for me. The music mirrors the moral ambiguity of Nicolas Cage’s character and the alternance between his lack of conscience and the times when his strong feelings surface.
The score is like a compilation of world music. It has Russian sounding cues, South American cues and a few African inspired tracks, all in tune with the evolution of the character and his dealings all over the world. “Little Odessa” replicates Russian instruments. I like the sudden turn of mood it has close to the end, like a moment when a deep thought or intense sensation comes to you as if from nowhere and takes you over.
“Consequences and loss” is a powerful cue, which starts with raw and piercing strings that get my attention and finishes with a sensitive piano mood. It evokes sharp and continuous pain and then acceptance. “The promise” is an effective piano tune, stripped of anything complex but very honest. Piano is front and center in “Conscience” as well, but I really love about this track are the deep cello undertones in the background. They add depth to the cue. “Conscience” is part of a strong three track finish for this score: after it plays “AK-47 Love”, a harmonica and violin based cue that sounds Slavic in inspiration and actually sends me back in some moments to the sound of Emir Kusturica’s movies. “Warlord”, the final track of the album reinterprets the main theme of the movie with a simple and lonely guitar rhythm and provides a tender and satisfying end to the score.
The true gem of “Lord of war” is “Ava’s arms”. It is the love song of the score, but it’s also the most tragic sounding and haunting track of them all. The use of Portuguese cavaquinhos (small string instruments, from the guitar family) was a brilliant idea, and the four wire strings of the instruments cut the heart wide open. It really might be hard to listen for some, because of how intense the scratchy strings sound. For me, it’s one of the rare cues I graded with 6 stars, because I find it sublime. It moves me, it speaks to me, I feel all its pain and desperation.
I have to admit that what first drew me to Antonio Pinto’s music was the ethnic sound. It stood out. But his subsequent work convinced me to stick around and keep listening to his music. “Lord of war” remains my favorite score of his.
My ratings:
Cue rating: 78.7 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 25 / 39
Album excellence:  65%
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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