Film scores

Soundtrack review: Bastille Day (Alex Heffes – 2016)

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“Bastille Day” is a 2016 American action film directed by James Watkins and written by Andrew Baldwin. The film stars Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon, Eriq Ebouaney and José Garcia. Michael Mason, a pick-pocket living in Paris steals a bag with a teddy bear in it. Not realizing the toy contains a timed bomb, he tosses it aside on a busy street. A few seconds later it explodes, killing four people. CCTV footage reveals Masons face and the French police tag him as a terrorist threat. In a separate CIA investigation the unruly agent Sean Briar, discovers the real story behind Masons “terrorist attack”. The two men, on different sides of the law, collaborate to bring the corrupt members of the Ministry down. Alex Heffes wrote the score.

Alex Heffes has gotten my attention ever since he scored “State of play”. That was a smart political thriller which the composer made even better with his music. Thrillers are, in a way, his specialty and he always knows how to make them sound intriguing. The risk with a story like this is that the score might end up generic. More and more producers or directors ask for a score that’s cheap to make and functions well within the movie. It’s not the case here as right from the start Alex Heffes blends exotic string motifs (almost African in sound) with a suspenseful undertone. I like how “Aftermath”, for example, sounds as if it was experienced through the ears of someone in the middle of the action, with bits and pieces coming from everywhere and echoes mixing with each other.

“Rooftop chase” also feels more intimate than epic. Those special strings give the sensation of the pulse being raised until its felt in the character’s throat and I haven’t felt such a rush since Henry Jackmans’ “Captain Phillips”. I love the suffocating and relentless pace of this cue. This is how you write a clever chase cue.

I like this score because it doesn’t settle in a suspenseful or investigative rhythm. The music moves, reacts, runs, hits and, in one word, lives. The score gives me a good feeling about the pace of the movie and I’m very curious if the two will fit. I like the experimental sound that it sometimes has and I like how Alex Heffes keeps me guessing. I like the thrilling action pieces and I like the feeling of being in a perpetual rooftop chase with this score.

Yes, I really liked “Bastille Day”.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 53

Album excellence: 43%

Highlights:

Aftermath

City On Fire

Van Fight

Entering The Vault

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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