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Above And Beyond by Lorne Balfe (Review)

posted Feb 17, 2015, 3:45 PM by Kaya Savas

In 1948, a group of veteran Jewish WWII pilots found themselves back home in a world that seemed like it didn’t want them. They jumped at the chance to go fight for Israel in the War For Independence. The film is a documentary from producer Nancy Spielberg and is a collective of interviews and historical footage that recounts the times of these pilots in their back to back wars. Lorne Balfe doesn’t need to prove his versatility as a composer, but he does so once again by providing the emotional undercurrent with this great score. Is Lorne a documentary composer? Yes. Is he a video game composer? Yes. Is he a big-budget Hollywood composer? Yes. The man has done an amazing job of spreading himself around to demonstrate different sides of his music. I love delving into his scores because you can expect his style and voice, but it’s always uniquely different than what he did before. Above And Beyond does a fantastic job of adding a personal feel to the story, but it carries an emotional weight throughout that makes the score very effective.

The first thing you notice about the score, is that it does not feel like a documentary score. Like, at all. The score is structured strongly as a focused narrative, and I think that’s why I found myself emotionally attached all the way through. People will argue that you can easily dip into emotional manipulation, and that’s a big no-no in documentaries. However, Lorne never manipulates. The score becomes emotionally investing without ever feeling melodramatic or overly pulling. The music has some ethnic textures that bring it to life, but it’s the deep somber warmth of the strings that really give the weight. I think the music effectively conveys a group of people who went looking for meaning and acceptance with the only way they knew how. The score does follow some documentary patterns though, and in my opinion it holds it back from coming to full fruition. But the music does everything that it can do with the build of the picture, and what it does is great.

Above And Beyond felt like a small personal journey painted on a grand backdrop. The deeply somber strings added an emotional warmth that carried you through this fascinating story about Jewish WWII pilots jumping into another war to help people in need and looking for purpose. It’s a documentary score that never feels like a documentary score, and that’s a good thing. It adds all the emotional beats of the story and weaves them into an engaging narrative. Lorne Balfe proves his versatility once again by going from a wacky animated penguin adventure to this non-fictional story of WWII pilots.