Film scores

Soundtrack review: Transsiberian (Alfonso de Villalonga – 2015)

“Transsiberian” is a tough thriller about a couple that travels from China to Moscow and gets involved in a drug smuggling crime. The score was written by Spanish composer Alfonso de Villalonga. I am expecting something dark and moody with Russian influences, all premises for a score I could enjoy.

The first track “Vladivostok” sets the tone of the score with a sombre cello solo and some Russian male choirs. They are subdued for now, not the stuff that would send shivers up you spine. Both the choir and the way the Cello is played have the dark weight of a Russian town. The mood changes drastically in the second track; “All aboard” has that narrow exciting sound of a lighter mystery movie. There’s a constant and playful plucking of chords in the background which I really like.

So far the music is enjoyable but keeps int he background. It doesn’t grab be hard enough to get me invested in it.
“Walk and talk” has a mysterious mood to it and there’s a flute at one point wailing softly but I still feel I could be doing something else while listening to this score. I don’t yet feel tension or suspense. The soft piano in “Bad girl past” is nice and reflective. Again I am enjoying the music but nothing more.

With “Church kiss” the cello solo returns and it sounds beautiful. Now that’s more like it! Here’s the spark I was waiting for. The Cellist changes the pace and suddenly starts rattling the instrument in a brilliant and psychotic manner until a very scary motif comes alive and jumps out of there right on my back. I guess the first few cues were just the prelude because now things get serious and interesting. “Heroin” brings some a very interesting dialogue between instruments.

I can’t put my finger on what’s missing from this score for me. I like the music, I like the variety on instruments and the way their sounds blend together but still the composition doesn’t feel cohesive enough. There’s no common thread linking the cues and I don’t hear a story in the music. It feels as if I’m watching a movie where the scenes are very separated from each other. The only time I recognize something is when the light theme from “All aboard” returns in “Yrkutzk”.

“Let’s go chase” is the longest track of this score, at 5 minutes. It brings more of the same alert and suspenseful mood which probably helps in the context of the movie but doesn’t make for a very rewarding standalone listen. This cue sounds like a miniature version of the score. If you enjoy “Let’s go chase” you will love this score. “I need to see her” brings a sweet melancholy which I can connect to. I like gentle way in which this short piece rains over me and the piano solo was very Morriconesque. With this and the lullaby sounding “Abby’s dream”, the score ends in very satisfying manner. These final cues sounded cleaner than the rest and show a lot of potential.
“Transsiberian” left me with some interesting instrumental ideas and the melancholic ending. It was a nice one time listen and I would be very curious to see those musical ideas further developed by the Alfonso de Villalonga” in future compositions.

Cue rating: 80 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 4 / 25

Album excellence: 14%

Highlights:

Church Kiss

Abby’s dream

 

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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