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Soundtrack review: In the heart of the sea (Roque Banos – 2015)

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Soundtrack review: In the heart of the sea (Roque Banos – 2015)


“In the heart of the sea” is one of the most awaited movies of the year for me. Ever since I saw the trailer…ever since I saw it’s directed by Ron Howard and it stars Chris Hemsworth, his new favorite actor, I’ve been intrigued. The last movie the two of them did together still is for me one of the best movies of the past few years, “Rush”. Hans Zimmer delivered a memorable score there and I was sure he was going to be Ron’s composer of choice from now on. To my surprise, “In the heart of the sea”, the story based on the 1820 event, when a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home get a score from Roque Banos, a composer who I would describe by the same adjective: “intriguing”. The score is massive like Moby Dick itself, 90 minutes rife with 6 and 7 minutes long cues.

A score as long as this one is very inviting to me. It means the composer had time to develop his themes, set his mood and I will get to enjoy all that. I am excited to embark on this musical journey. The bells, echoes and growls that open this composition put me in a pirate mood. I feel the danger, suspense and excitement of being shipwrecked. Banos’ horror background transpires through the notes of “Arriving at Nkcerson’s Lair”. I hope the music stays as good for the duration because I’d love to say at the end of this review that the music had me from hello.

I am trying to figure out why I connect so quickly and easy with the music. I close my eyes and let the musical waves wash over me gently and I realize that this is exactly what does it for me: the music is stripped of everything that’s unnecessary and flows with just the bare minimum. The composition is honest and exposed both in emotion and in action and honesty is the way to my heart. For example after a cue like “Farewell” I feel like rushing to hug my little girl. Felt that one through my bones.

As the journey progresses I find myself thinking something I very rarely think: I don’t miss Hans Zimmer on this score. The music is so powerful and beautiful that it fulfills every need I might have from my time with it. There are moments when the music builds up as if it were a giant creature coming from below and smashing its huge tail on the surface of the sea. I believe everything the composer tells me; I trust him when his music tells me I should be careful, I trust him when the music scares me and I trust him when the music moves me.

The longer cues are built in a fascinating way. “Blows” for example is a masterful adventure piece from start to finish and I can see myself running with it in my ears. The pace is exciting and the story this cue tells me makes me not want to miss a single second. I don’t know what Roque Banos channeled when he was writing this score but I am more and more amazed. Ron Howard continues to bring the best in his composers regardless if they are Horner, Zimmer or Banos. I would love to be there when director and composer talk because the scores for his movies are nothing short of amazing.

“In the heart of the sea” surpassed even the high expectations I had for it. Every moment from this score is a treasure. The musical canvas is rich and varied and the end result is a story that will live forever. From the first claustrophobic fright until the last emotional moment the music is meaningful and you could choose any cue from the list and still hit gold. I missed a score like this: an epic orchestral wonder that I will remember for years to come. I will remember specific moments like the cello in “Abandon ship”, the relentless aggression in “The attack” or the haunting vocals on “The white whale chant”      . I felt every single touch of the music, be it tender or violent and I am grateful to Roque Banos and Ron Howard for this gift. Whatever you do, listen to this one. This is how legends are born.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 89 / 89

Album excellence: 100%


Arriving Nickerson’s Lair

Chase Walking Nantucket


Young Nickerson

Essex Leaving Harbor

The Knockdown


A Thousand Leagues Out

Lower Away

The Attack

Abandon Ship


Stand Off


The Story Is Told

The White Whale Chant

Meeting Old Nickerson

The Second Attack

Lost At Sea

Desert Island

Finding The Dead

End Credits (Alternate Version)


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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  1. csernakakos 30th November 2015

    Thank you for this review.. Very curious to hear the full score now.

  2. Sanchit Varma 7th May 2016

    This was unexpectedly brilliant. Exciting, emotional, rousing and fun. This is challenging Jupiter Ascending to be the most grossly underrated score of 2015.

    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 7th May 2016

      My thoughts exactly.

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