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Soundtrack review: The circle (Danny Elfman – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The circle (Danny Elfman – 2017)

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“The Circle” is a 2017 American techno-thriller film directed by James Ponsoldt with a screenplay by Ponsoldt and Dave Eggers based on Eggers’ 2013 novel of the same name. The film stars Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, with John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton. A woman lands a dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, only to uncover an agenda that will affect the lives of all of humanity. The cast of this movie is quite attractive to me and it’s the last performance of the great Bill Paxton. Danny Elfman wrote the score.

2017 is a strange year for Danny Elfman as he is preparing to score his most epic movie yet, “Justice league”, by scoring a historical drama (“Tulip fever”) an erotic thriller (“Fifty shades darker”) and this techno thriller for which of course I expect an electronic score. I must admit I wouldn’t have imagined Elfman writing such a whimsical and charming electronic arcade game cue like “Wonderland”; it truly is a wonderful little retro piece of music that gives me a much better feeling than the PR blurb for the movie had let me to imagine. “Happy little robots” puts me into an even greater state of disbelief as I feel like I am listening to Paulie’s robot from “Rocky IV”. I don’t even know what to think of this cue, except that it’s weird and fun to listen to.

I like electronic music, it’s probably my favourite genre but this score fails to grab me or excite me; whenever Elfman gets analogue in this score I am enjoying the sound but it doesn’t happen very often. Sometimes the composer tries to go dark electronic or to a sound that reminds me of “The social network” but it doesn’t work very well and for me the cues sound uneven and neither there nor there. It’s an electronic thriller sound that just doesn’t make for a very enjoyable listening experience for me. I am all up for composer experimenting with this sound, with their sound but I just can’t connect with this score.

I cling to cues like “Stolen kayak” because nostalgia here is very high with the simple and charming analogue sound. It would work very well on a game score. I can’t find more than moments that I like in “The circle” and it’s a shame because the potential for a great electronic score was there. I guess Danny Elfman just couldn’t find his rhythm here and I think he needs of of his comfort zone stories to inspire him.

Cue rating: 75 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 3  / 31

Album excellence: 9%

Highlights:
Wonderland
Chasing Amy

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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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