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Soundtrack review: Dead men (Gerrit Wunder – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Dead men (Gerrit Wunder – 2018)

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Set in the lawless world of the Old West, ‘Dead Men’ follows the path of a young man forced on a journey to avenge the death of this father, protect the Apache tribe he has grown to love and reclaim the land and gold that is rightfully theirs. I love westerns and their scores so I am hyped up for this. Gerrit Wunder wrote the score and I liked his two compositions from last year, he was one of the new composers I noticed in 2017.

Western movies have such a distinct sound and I can never get tired of it no matter how much I listen to; take the main titles for example, they bring nothing new but mane as I dive into that vivid Americana sound I feel right at home. The mood of this cue and of “What are you going to do, Jesse” evokes exactly the Western American I know, with brass motifs and the moody guitar and a melody that makes me think of a vast and empty landscape I have to cross. Wunder’s soft brush works very well and inspires me.

It’s no time for dreamy though as the composer dives straight into action with “They are coming for us” and he manages to bring his horror craft to a Western without altering the mood; this is a straight up scary chase cue and I can see it working in this movie as well. This shows the other side of Gerrit Wunder’s music, one just as rewarding. The tense and chilling atmosphere continues into “Escape” and I feel connected to the story through the music, because the score feels like a story and makes me want to follow it and see the movie. The composer molds the music over the twists and turns of the script, over the emotional ups and downs and creates a very compelling atmosphere. The quiet reflective cues enhance the emotional impact while the more frantic ones evoke the danger of the harsh environment. A great Western score, for me, should cover both ends of the specter and make me think both of long horse runs and of cold nights camped around a fire.

I think the strength of this score is that Gerrit Wunder didn’t write it like someone would write a Western score today, in 2018. He wrote it with a sepia like effect in the sound that makes it feel genuine, that makes it fit in the gallery of great Western scores of past years; the cues are carefully developed, nothing is rushed and the music has time to set in and be absorbed like water in a dry ground.

Gerrit Wunder’s “Dead men” has everything I want in a Western score, from inspirational motifs to reflective, moody ones and to action pieces that simply work. Everything about this score is honest and believable and there were quite enough times when I felt the need to stop writing, stop thinking and just enjoy the music. Next to Max Richter’s “Hostiles” this is one of the best Western scores I’ve heard in a good while. Gerrit Wunder continues to build up his name in the film music world and I am in for the ride.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Highlights:
What Are You Going to Do, Jesse
Remember This Day
Capturing Ila
Aftermath
Victory at Great Cost

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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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