Film scores

Soundtrack review: Above and beyond (Lorne Balfe – 2015)

ABOVE&BEYOND

„Above and beyond” is a story about how In 1948, just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps, a group of Jewish American pilots answered a call for help. In secret and at great personal risk, they smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia and flew for Israel in its War of Independence. Sounds like a very emotional story. Lorne Balfe wrote the score and it was a surprise release for me. I had just reviewed „Sons of liberty” from him and I was expecting „Home”.

„Hatikvah”, the opening cue is based on the national anthem of Israel. I remember it also from James Newton Howard’s „Defiance”. Lorne Balfe’s version is quiet and poignant. I love this melody and it always makes me feel something. „Taking off” really takes of 2:10 in when the sweet violin comes and just makes everything else dissapear. That violin, mournful and evokative as it is, sounds divine to me. It builds up then into a beautiful and meaningful composition.

„Reestablishing the homeland” is a cue with a very precise ethnic Middle Eastern sound. I can hear Lorne’s background in scoring games in this piece. There’s something about this sound which makes me somehow think of his „Assassin’s Creed” music. I am enjoying the score but so far the tone remains a little light for what the story is supposed to mean. „As fast as possible” still doesn’t go very deep, as if the composer was on auto pilot when writing it.

„Travelling” keeps the breezy tone of the score. I think I’ve said this for a few cues in „Sons of liberty” as well: seems like Lorne just went with it without necessarily putting his usual attention and care into every cue. The music works, is enjoyable, but I guess it’s nothing special so far. A track like this one could work on any number of films; it doesn’t feel related to this emotional story.

„The golden moment” shows some signs of life and plays in a different tone than the rest of the score so far. It’s the kind of reflective cue that leaves me with an unanswered question. Is a cue that’s full of doubt and uncertainty, all put into brilliant notes by Lorne Balfe. Still it’s a rare feast from „Above and beyond”. I think my problem with this score is that I don’t feel the emotion I thought it would. There are echoes and traces of it in „Here to help” for example. This peace is a special one and I enjoy how atmospheric it is. It gets 5 stars because I will surely return to it.

The violin returns in “A nation”. It’s a welcomed return and the score seems to pick up some sort of momentum. This cue just explodes into and epic and emotional composition that just floors me. Now this is the Lorne I know and love! Give me more of this rousing music! “Their war” convinced me to forget the first half of the score and just enjoy the beautiful and piercing themes that Lorne Balfe reserved for the end of “Above and beyond”. Seems that he gathered in these final few cues all the emotions that were lacking before. The final cue bears the name of the album and also bears all the weight this story has. It’s very interesting how a score I had almost dismissed leaves me with such a desire for more.

After a brilliant start and a lackluster middle section, “Above and beyond” soared magnificently in its final part. I will return to those final four epic cues because they just made my list of favorite Lorne Balfe pieces. Was there more to this score?

Cue rating: 80 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 42

Album excellence: 40%

Highlights:

Hatikvah

Taking off

Here to help

A nation

Their war

Above and beyond

 

About the author

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).

2 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • “Hatikvah” is not “based on a famous Jewish folk song”. It is the national anthem of Israel. The melody is closely related to Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s ‘The Moldau’ from his symphonic poem celebrating Bohemia, ‘Má Vlast’ (‘My Country’).

    I enjoyed reading your review and am now listening to the album on Spotify.