TV

Soundtrack review: 11.22.63 (Alex Heffes – 2016)

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“11.22.63” is an American science fiction thriller limited series based on the book 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and consisting of eight episodes.  The series is executive produced by J. J. Abrams, King, Bridget Carpenter and Bryan Burk,. Jake Epping (James Franco), a recently divorced English teacher from Maine, is presented with the chance to travel back in time to Texas in 1960 by his longtime friend Al Templeton (Chris Cooper). He is convinced into going and attempts to prevent the assassination of JFK in November 1963. However, he becomes attached to the life he makes in the past and this could be his mission’s undoing. This is one of the most unusual and intriguing Stephen King stories. The score was written by Alex Heffes.

When a score deals with a specific period or moment in time I usually have expectations from the score to make me feel like I’m back in that period. It’s not always the case though and the plot might take precedence over setting. Alex Heffess takes the latter route as he creates right from the start an atmosphere of constant tension. There are times when I find familiar places in the music, as the lighter parts make me think of Thomas Newman’s usual style. I am surprised right from the start that the exciting opening title theme seems to be missing.

A cue like “The past pushes back” tells me a lot about the atmosphere of this score. There are rays of light but also a second half that’s downright terrifying. I suppose it’s the cue that marks the hardship of the transition between present and past. There’s a hot and cold effect and horror cues mix with sweet pieces like “Harry’s theme”. I know the character and I remember exactly how poignant the theme was when it appeared on the show. Once again I get Thomas Newman vibes when the happier cues arrive and in my mind this light dripping piano is now a sound for non-horror Stephen King adaptations.

There is no middle ground in “11.22.63”: the music is either dark and stabbing or quiet and mysterious. In either of the two instances I feel like this score is more suited for listening in context than standalone. There are a lot of investigative cues or sudden action parts that sound like big reveals are happening and I am curious about them. They feel a bit empty without the images. The love moments work best on their own because they allow me to dream and relax. A cue like “Jake & Sadie” will always be welcomed at my table.

“11.22.63” was an enjoyable score which I’m sure will make even more sense when I will watch the show. The last impression I’m left with now is that of a beautiful and haunting end theme “From here to eternity”, which is just as romantic as the title says.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 13 / 65

Album excellence: 20%

Highlights:

Harry’s Theme

A Changing History

Jake & Sadie

11.22.63

From Here To Eternity

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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