Film scores

Soundtrack review: The magnificent seven (James Horner and Simon Franglen – 2016)

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James Horner is gone. This is the reality we’ve all had to live with for the past year. His spirit lives on though and his departure from the film music world has been gradual…first a couple of scores he had already completed…and then his spirit, already a little farther away, infused one last composition that his longtime collaborator Simon Franglen completed. James Horner’s true farewell is “The magnificent seven” and I am writing now my thoughts about it. The movie is another remake of one of the most famous cinematic stories and a welcomed revival of a genre that’s not present enough in today’s film world. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgaard take up the main roles under the helm of a director a respect greatly, Antoine Fuqua.

When the score opens with “Rose Creek Oppression” my eyes gest instantly misty; strong and familiar emotions take me over within seconds as I recognize old and trusted friends in the unforgettable James Horner “danger motif” that has graced my ears in so many fantastic compositions. The sharp flute and the voice send me back to “Legends of the fall” and that’s one of my favorite musical places to be in. The percussion also brings back memories of suspenseful and aggressive Horner. These elements, these most welcomed “Hornerisms” are very present in this score.

I like the stride of the score right from the start as it makes me thing of “The magnificent seven” and how they ride.  “Seven angels of vengeance” is a proper Western theme that sounds both fresh and classical to me. Just as the movie is a modern and new take on the story so the score stands on its own two feet rather than rely on James Horner or Western nostalgia. I find myself nodding my head and moving unconsciously in my chair as “Volcano springs” develops. For me, growing up, the music of Western movies always worked best when it found the right balance between conviction and longing, between the sound of riding fearlessly and the sound of what motivates the characters to do so. “The magnificent seven” strikes such a balance without getting overly epic or dramatic. Suspense is what drives the score. The music is beautiful like a calm river and it provides me with more peaceful and quiet moments than I would have expected.

I always like to find the warm core of a film music score; “Red harvest” is the second moment when I get emotional because the magical flute tells me a story I thought I would never hear again. I hear echoes of “Avatar” and “Braveheart” in this and I just close my eyes and dream until danger wakes me up. I then hear “Revenge” from “Braveheart” in “Takedown” and I’m fine with it because this is truly is a James Horner score, a composition in which I could never get lost because he always places in there familiar stepping stones that i can recognize with my eyes closed.

The music of James Horner rides quietly and melancholically into the sunset. It doesn’t go out with an epic bang and this will not end up among my favorite scores of his but it is one last gift from one of the most gifted composers ever. Maybe it’s better this way because a normal score makes it feel as if life goes on… He provided the heart and skeleton that his longtime collaborator Simon Franglen covered in a beautiful skin. I’m sure had James Horner been still alive he wouldn’t have written it differently. Farewell…

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minute of excellence: 25 / 76

Album excellence: 33%

Highlights:

Rose Creek Oppression

Lighting the Fuse

Red Harvest

Takedown

Town Exodus – Knife Training

So Far So Good

Horne Sacrifice

Seven riders

 

 

 

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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