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Soundtrack review: The river wild (Maurice Jarre – 1994, 2015)

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Soundtrack review: The river wild (Maurice Jarre – 1994, 2015)


„The river wild” was one of the more unusual Meryl Streep roles because she played and action hero for once. She is on a rafting vacation with her husband and her son and they tun into a couple of dangerous criminals. Kevin Bacon plays one of them and he’s excellence as usual. Of course the movie has some hardly credible moments in it but the scenery, cinematography and actors make it worthwhile.

Maurice Jarre wrote the score but it was finally rejected by the producers. I imagine his sensible music didn’t fit the adventurous nature of the film. Luckily for film music lovers Intrada released his complete recordings alongside Jerry Goldsmith’s score. I usually can connect better with Jarre (and even better with his son’s music, but that’s another story) than with Jerry so I am happy to give this a listen.

“The bridge” is a magnificent opening to this score. It’s sweeping, beautiful and has those small shots of emotion that make it even more intense. Composers like Jarre or John Barry have something in their music which makes it very easy and pleasant to listen to. There’s a certain flow, a melodic sweetness that I instantly fall for. I rarely skip songs in a Maurice Jarre composition because even the down moments have something in them.

“We all go” is the perfect cue for the start of an adventure. The orchestra just goes with it and creates an atmosphere I can feel and understand. I can relate to it and I feel like I am part of the journey. Old school orchestral scores with their quiet dreamy sound are something special. Just five minutes into this score and I was already immersed and lost it in, eager to explore every corner and hear every breath of flute or touch of string.

“The stakes just go higher” is so tense I can feel it in my throat. Jarre went for a minimalistic approach but I can feel the other instruments lurking somewhere around me ready to jump in. I am never safe during this cue and the instruments play hide and seek with me. Or is it cat and mouse? This is a thick composition that leaves marks.

“Tom lost” is beautiful and sad. It’s true that I can’t imagine it working in “The river wild”. This is a violin heavy and emotional composition that’s better suited for a different kind of drama. I don’t feel the outdoors or the pace of the movie it was written for. I could say that this piece is too beautiful for this film. I’ve seen it and it’s mostly about action and adventure. Maurice Jarre’s score plays more on suspense and the key word is danger. His “River wild” makes the danger real and palpable. I get uncomfortable listening to tracks like “The cliff”, which again has that “Cape fear” type intensity and grip to it or “Raft in trouble” which actually makes me think of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for “First blood”.

I expected “Gail strikes back” and “Hold on” to start the action, but the music is still dramatic. Brilliant and dramatic. I am enjoying it immensely as a standalone listen. I love the darkness of this composition and I love the depth of every single theme. I could listen to this score for hours. It grips me and keeps me on the edge of my seat. There isn’t a single moment that doesn’t belong here.

“Final fight” starts surprisingly gentle and melodic before turning up the action. The percussion shines on this one and I feel my heart in my throat. “Reunion and end title” brings back the beautiful opening theme and brings a proper conclusion to this score with the song “The water is wide”. It would have been a real shame if we would have been deprived of Maurice Jarre’s effort for “The river wild”. It stands up there with his best.

The 25 minutes of extras are real gems for the soundtrack collector in me. They play like moments of brilliance or flashes of memories. Even if most of them are under a minute long they are worth the listen. Most of them are from the beautiful part of the vacation before all the danger and drama occurs so they play as very nice family pieces. “Racing victory” is one of my favorite moments from this score actually.

Cue rating: 85 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 29 / 73

Album excellence: 40%


The Bridge

The Stakes Just Got Higher

Tom Lost

The Cliff

Raft In Trouble

Hold On

Racing Victory

Racing Victory – Alternate 1

Maggie, Too

First Baggage – Revised

Reunion – Version 2

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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