Film scores

Soundtrack review: Black sea (Ilan Eshkeri – 2015)

„Black sea” is a British thriller where iIn order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain (Jude Law) takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a WWII submarine rumored to be loaded with gold. Composer Ilan Eshkeri started 2015 on a high witht he brilliant „After Alice”. Let’s see what he can bring to this dark thriller. The standard for me for submarine thrillers is Hans Zimmer’s perfect “Crimson Tide”. I’m not expecting that kind of magic here though.

The score opens up with „Clean your desk” which is my kind of quiet: reflective enough to make me connect and interesting enough to make me wonder what comes next and what the music hides. It’s a minimalistic piano cue which submerges me into this score. Of course with this start I am expecting to find many intriguing things underneath. A few cues pass though without getting any reaction for me. “Mansion” and “I need a sub” are decent thriller cues but nothing really special. “Prepare to sail” brings a little more excitements and ups the game a little. Maybe this is where the action starts.

It isn’t, but “Leaving Sevastopol” brings back the darkness and suspense before getting all melodic after the 1 minute mark. Now if only it could have kept that momentum…that was a section which could have been developed in a beautiful theme but the cue dives back in darkness. That sprout of a theme resurfaces towards the end of a cue and I really wish the part in between were as good.

“Fly by” starts repeating the energy pulses from the previous cues. “Frasier and Blackie” almost stops midway through. I guess it’s tension, pulses getting slower, breathing getting more calculated, but in the end it’s just noise. It gets more alert in its second half with a constant metal clanking which reminds me a little of Henry Jackman’s “Captain Phillips.

The atmosphere is almost as claustrophobic as it should be for a submarine thriller but nothing more. I am having a hard time separating the cues because there are enough parts of them that sound similar. “Sea bad” is the longest piece of this score, 7 minutes long. Maybe that’s enough time to develop something. The first three minutes are a constant low level hum. It fits with the name of the cue and with what’s going on outside the submarine but it doesn’t make for very interesting music. I am thinking that this would be better enjoyed in context. Suddenly a creepy motif wakes me up and the cue turns suspenseful. That effect was nice, it made me feel something. Then the cue dissolves back into the background.

“Hauling back” is livelier than what I heard so far with a repetitive tension motif. It gets downright scary at the end and it’s my first 5 star cue from “Black sea”. I feel it, I am scared and I feel trapped. It seems this is all I’ll be left with once this score ends. A great cue and a tense atmosphere done well. Drops of emotion like the opening track or “Gun”.

As I am writing this a ray of light shoots through. A cello starts playing…a theme starts building up…emotions rise…it took 23 cues to get here but I finally get a winner. “Escape” is beautiful, intense, emotional and miles above anything else in “Black sea”. If only there were more moments like this one…I can’t get enough of this track and I will mark it down for my end of the year list.

“Escape” also leads into a very nice ending for this score. “Ascent” is great and “Sacrifice” matches the opening. It’s not much for a one hour long score, but I found a gem so I can’t complain…

Cue rating: 70 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 8 / 60

Album excellence: 14%

Highlights:

Hauling back

Escape

Ascent

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).

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