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Soundtrack review: The finest hours (Carter Burwell – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The finest hours (Carter Burwell – 2016)


“The Finest Hours” is a 2016 American historical disaster drama film directed by Craig Gillespie and produced by Walt Disney Pictures from a screenplay written by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy, based on The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. The film stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, and Eric Bana, and chronicles the true account of the 1952 United States Coast Guard rescue of the SS Pendleton, after it split apart during a nor’easter off the New England coast. When a story like this comes along I go straight to “The perfect storm” which, incidentally, had a perfect score by James Horner. This time, it’s carter Burwell at the helm and it’s very interesting to hear him write for an epic movie.

Every once in a while a score comes along that makes me feel as if I’m watching the movie in the same time; the music has a point and serves a purpose. I imagine this as if it were a painting of a portrait of someone: the image can be beautiful on its own and it can make me feel the pleasure of seeing something so beautiful but sometimes the painting can be so vivid, so real, that it can make me wonder what the person immortalized in that portrait was looking at or thinking of; it can leave me with that question which no one will be able to answer. In the case of film music, the movie can answer that question. “The finest hours” is one of those scores that make me wonder. I listen to the beautiful music which is sometimes serious, others times sweet, other times ominous and I want to know what happens. I want to know what the composer was thinking of and how the scene in the movie looks like. This isn’t the type of score I will just enjoy and move on. It grabs me; it’s like a mold of something I want to see for real. This is one of those creations where the composer put the story above the music and managed to put every emotion that the characters felt into notes.

And then there’s the icing on the cake… the final cue, the 10 minutes long masterpiece “Safe harbor”. Even without this cue, “The finest hours” would have been a memorable score. This final theme though is what takes it into greatness. It’s just the beginning of February 2016 but this cue will not miss from the list of best cues of the year. “Safe harbor” is a stunning composition that makes me want to get down on my knees and thank the film music gods for inspiring Carter Burwell into writing it. This cue is pure emotion and as beautiful as music can get. It makes me want to capture all the airwaves on the world for 10 minutes and just play it for everyone to hear and love.

“The finest hours” is one of the earliest candidates for score of the year 2016.

Cue rating: 97 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 48

Album excellence: 86%


Meeting Miriam

It’s Starting to Snow

Pendleton Jump


Lost Our Lights

I Hope You Didn’t Kill Us

The 36500

The Bucket Line

The Man Shouldn’t Have Sent Them

Crossing the Bar

Pendleton Push

Four Men Lost


Big Man, Big Sea

The Going Down

Safe Harbor

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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