Film scores

Soundtrack review: Bridge of spies (Thomas Newman – 2015)

bridge

The spy genre is experiencing a resurrection in 2015 and I couldn’t be happier. And when the names attached to a movie are Steven Spielberg and the Coen brothers, I get even more excited. Add to that Tom Hanks, and I am rushing to see this one. “Bridge of spies” is a American historical dramatic thriller film based on the 1960 U-2 incident. Brooklyn lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is thrust into the center of the Cold War when he is given a mission to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. Usually John Williams scores all of Spielberg’s movies, but this time health problems prevented him from doing so and the score went to Thomas Newman who all of a sudden found himself in October 2015 with the two biggest spy movies of the year on his hands: this and the new James Bond. No pressure…

Looking over the track list gives me a strange sensation: it feels as if the first dozen cues are just prelude for the last three which amount to 25 minutes. I am very curious about them because Newman isn’t a guy to write monster cues like that. But first, I welcome an opening which reminds me of “Roll tide” from “Crimson Tide”. A somber mail choir introduces us to this score.

Thomas Newman is amazing. He has his unique sound developed, he found a niche that nobody else can get into, a sound which appears light but says so much… and he is able to dress that sweeping and always optimistic piano sound of his in military clothes for a cue like “Sunlit silence” and it works. It works even if this movie is different from everything he’s scored so far. I am listening to this score still worried about “Spectre” and I am happy to discover such unexpected subtleties in his music.

I don’t mind that this is not a classical spy score with dark jazzy moods. The story seems to focus on back office politics and actions and this is how it should sound. The score is dark and foggy and has atmospheric parts (looking at you, “Standing man”) which blend the best of what Thomas Newman has composed so far. For me “Rain” is the cue that best bridges this score with his classical compositions. “Lt. Francis Gary Powers” is the one that is farthest from them because it’s a straight up dark action, almost horror cue. Now with something like this the James Bond movie could work.

As the score progresses the dark veil of emotional depth that Thomas Newman drapes me in gets thicker and thicker and also more comfortable. Haven’t heard him in such a form since “Road to perdition”. I am so happy to hear a score like this from him. There’s not a forgettable cue on this album, and I haven’t even talked about the long ones. There’s no need to. The music speaks for itself, and “Glienicke Bridge” is one of the cues of the year.

“Bridge of spies” is the discovery or Thomas Newman’s dark side. I’ve always known he could write like this, but this is the first time he really dug deep into a place he hasn’t been very often musically. The result is a magnificent score, mysterious and menacing like a long dark trench coat silhouette at the corner of a dark street on a rainy night.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 35 / 48

Album excellence: 72%

Highlights:

Hall of Trade Unions, Moscow

Sunlit Silence

Standing Man

Lt. Francis Gary Powers

The Article

The Wall

Private Citizen

The Impatient Plan

Glienicke Bridge

Bridge of Spies (End Title)

 

 

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).

1 Comment

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  • Oh please, the music score for Bridge of The Spies just suck, which doesn’t even reflect the mood for each scene. If you call this good music, then you’re not even qualified to review any film music at all.