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Argo by Alexandre Desplat (Review)

posted Nov 3, 2012, 3:10 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Nov 3, 2012, 3:17 PM ]

Alexandre Desplat is the contemporary Morricone. Not in terms of compositional style, but because Desplat has been composing 5+ scores a year for the past seven. Writing a whopping 18 scores in the past two alone. No other composer has come close to the amount of music Morricone put out in his enormous career, but Desplat is certainly the next in line. Ben Affleck's political thriller Argo is his latest outing. Affleck's previous composer of choice was Harry Gregson-Williams. He composed the score for Gone Baby Gone, and for The Town with David Buckley. For reasons largely unknown, Desplat is in the hot seat and delivers a serviceable score.

The Middle East, and the wars it encompasses, is an area well covered in film. Starting with Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down in 2001, Hollywood has not gone more than a couple years without a film set during one of these wars or conflicts. The genre is even more saturated if you include video games in the mix. Desplat himself has been there before with Syriana, and has another one coming out in a month, Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. Needless to say, the musical palette utilized in such films carries over many similarities. Desplat does incorporate a more traditional dramatic elegy in the score with "Cleared Iranian Airspace," but it is largely low-key, infused with Middle Eastern flavors and rhythms. Ethnic vocals and strings are the highlights, featured in cues like "Scent Of Death" and "The Six Are Missing." Here Desplat tones it down a bit compared to other composers that have covered the same ground, keeping the vocals almost at a whisper. They work more like percussionists than actual vocalists, which is a nice change of pace, but still not enough to really break away from the formula. Granted, films set in these regions should reflect their musical cultures, but when it comes to a listening experience, Desplat does not offer much more than what has been heard before.

A good listen and a serviceable score, but it fails to engage the listener beyond what can be heard in scores like Zimmer's Black Hawk Down, Kent's The Hunting Party, and Streitenfeld's Body Of Lies. It seems even Affleck was not entirely pleased as he tracked in previously composed music by Harry Gregson-Williams. It is a tough genre to innovate, and Desplat brings his unique musical stylings to the table, but as a whole it pales in comparison to other entries in his vast discography.