Film scores

Soundtrack review: Dying of the light (Frederik Wiedmann – 2015)

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The latest Nicolas Cage thriller,  “Dying of the light” is the story of a veteran CIA agent, who has been ordered to retire. But when his protégé (Anton Yelchin) uncovers evidence that Lake’s nemesis, the terrorist Banir , has resurfaced, he goes rogue, embarking on a perilous, intercontinental mission to eliminate his sworn enemy. Now even if his latest movies don’t get the best reviews, it’s a different story with the scores. I really enjoyed the score of the previous Cage vehicle, “Tokarev”, which was written by French composer Laurent Eyquem.

“Dying of the light” was one of my most anticipated scores for the beginning of this year. I spoke to Freddie Wiedmann about it in an interview I took last month and he told me more about it. I am surprised that the first cue is titled “It ends when you die”. Sounds more to me like an end quote, but I guess it would make more sense if I saw the movie. After a minimalistic start I feel the first emotions in “Diagnosed”. The dark electronic sound mimics a heart beating in the background as our main character finds out that he has a terrible illness. The feeling of a heart beating (this time slower) continues in “The doctor”. I love the pure synth sound that surfaces every now and then. It’s familiar to me and it reaches known places inside me. It’s suspenseful but determined and I imagine the main character as the quiet type when I hear these cues.

“Dementia” is a very interesting cue. The music gets so minimalistic midway through that it almost stops. I think it reflects the doubts the character is starting to feel. If the previous cues evoked to me a beating heart this one make me think of breath. It plays like that and it has a few mood swings from electronic to melodic to ominous.

The quiet and contained sound of “Dying of the light” suits me. If this is a revenge movie where the main character is already broken the sound so very fitting. This is how I imagine the score for such a story and it’s easy for me to understand and appreciate it. Even when the action gets a tone louder (“Dr. Cornel”) is still keeps the same electronic sound and preserves the identify of the score. The music is sometimes colder (“30 grand”) and coupled with the more intimate sound it makes me feel it as part of the main character, as if it was the gun he clutches in his fist all the time.

“Lost” is a beautiful and mournful ambient cue I instantly fall in love with. It’s melodic and sad and it’s the warmest piece of the score so far. It sounds like a deep inner monologue punctuated by soft piano notes and a few touches of the synth. It’s short but so meaningful. It’s the first one I stop and replay a couple of times just to get a better feel of it. It could be the turning point of the score and movie because it all seems to find a direction in the next cue “The switch”.

While the action parts are exciting my favorite moments are the quiet and melodic ones like the second half of “Becoming Cornel”. They carry a weight in them that makes me feel like I actually know the character. I understand him and I feel his sadness and determination. “Preparation” has an old arcade game sound at times. I love the nostalgia it brings. I find something to like in almost every cue and “Dying of the light” keeps me invested in it. But this score is all about the moments…The ending of “Ambushed” which sounds as if everything dissolves…the end of “One on one” where the discomfort is almost unbearable. Freddie Wiedmann brings his horror game here and drills the sounds deep. The uncomfortable atmosphere continues with “Mind games”, the longest cue of this score.

“You should have heard him scream” sounds like a closure. The music is quiet and almost peaceful, as if all the anger and doubt has faded away. Retribution also clear and melodic and has a sense of release in it. The final minute made me think of my favorite Nine Inch Nails atmospheric pieces with that background noise and the solo melancholic piano just whispering from time to time.

“Dying of the light” matched my expectations. I found a lot of moments of excitement and the score had heart. I will surely come back to the ambient pieces when my mood requires it.

Cue rating: 85 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 47

Album excellence: 29%

Highlights:

Diagnosed

Dementia

Lost

Becoming Cornel

You Should Have Heard Him Scream

Retribution

 

 

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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