Film scores

Soundtrack review: Last knights (Martin Tillman and Satnam Ramgotra – 2015)

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“Last knights” is a medieval epic starring Clive Owen (“King Arthur” alert, my mind goes immediately there) and Morgan Freeman. The movie is made by a Japanese film maker and it follows a group of fallen warriors who rise against a corrupt and sadistic ruler in order to avenge their dishonored master. Sounds like it will probably have a samurai undertone. The story focuses on vengeance and loyalty so there’s a lot of premise for a great score. The two composers are Martin Tillman and Satnam Ramgotra, two guys who have a long history of working with Hans Zimmer (“King Arthur” alert?). The former is a Cellist who first worked with Zimmer on one of my favorite scores, “The fan”, while the latter is a percussionist who was also featured on a lot of legendary scores. It’s nice to see them take helm of a movie.

The score is dark and moody. I can hear the Zimmer influences right from the second cue “Attack” which has a Dark Knight feel to it. The percussion, the buzzing, the uncomfortable weight, they are all there. Now the thing is I am particular about dark atmospheric thriller scores done right. Sure a subject such as this could have benefited from an epic thunderous score but I always welcome a composition which has a cue like “Advantage”. It’s the kind of late autumn mood inducing music that fits me. It makes me think of a quiet main character that has a lot of inner turmoil. There are a lot of moments when the music feels intimate and it reminds me of the movies and characters involving Liam Neeson or Nicolas Cage of recent years.

A cue like “Battle” done like this makes me think once again of a lower scale confrontation, or at least a huge battle filmed or presented at an individual level. I can almost see each weapon colliding or the facial expressions of every warrior. The music has this personal quality to it which is present throughout the score. A dark and metallic score like this makes me appreciate the few but well placed melodic inserts. I also liked the wailing female voice on “Journey” even if it was very Middle Eastern sounding and I don’t see the connection with the story.

Yet there’s something about the menacing tone of some of the cues (like “Emperor” or “Construction”) that feels a little too murky to fully enjoy. The music struggles to escape that dark swamp which works well as background but doesn’t succeed. These cues feel too much like background music and don’t do enough to get me excited and invested it what they try to tell me.

Like I said, all this makes me better appreciate an emotional and beautiful theme like “Naomi”. The darkness has a purpose here and I can understand it. This is the kind of character theme I really like. I can also see the resemblance with some of the “King Arthur” music here: the same melancholy, the haunting female voice. The feeling returns in “Rescue”.

There is also an ambitious 7 minutes long piece called “Allies”. It sounds like a cue that could have been part of the recording sessions of “The dark knight”. You can’t go wrong with a composition like this when it’s done right and I enjoyed the percussion and the subtle changes in mood. Hans Zimmer and RCP fans will surely dig this one.

While it didn’t sound very much like a medieval epic score but more like a modern thriller one there were enough parts of “Last knights” that I enjoyed. It’s nothing ground breaking, nothing I haven’t heard before but I like this sound and any new composer who uses it is welcomed.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 64

Album excellence: 28%

Highlights:

Advantage

Naomi

Allies

Mirror

Rescue

 

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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