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Favor by Joe Kraemer (Review)

posted Apr 27, 2014, 8:31 PM by Kaya Savas

Joe Kraemer is an extraordinary composer. He’s Christopher McQuarrie’s go to guy and was behind the fantastic scores to The Way Of The Gun and Jack Reacher. Jack Reacher was one of my favorite scores of 2012 as it was a brilliant approach to a very underrated film. Favor is in a completely different realm, but still retains Kraemer’s knack of hooking you emotionally and making the music feel like a tangible element that works intricately below the surface. Favor is a low-budget and finely tuned thriller, which is reflected in Joe’s somberly atmospheric score that slowly unravels into darkness.

The simplified plot of the film is that a man shows up at his friend’s door asking for help to hide the body of his mistress who accidentally fell and killed herself at a motel. This twisted thriller takes the audience on a spiraling journey downward. The score starts us off with the theme, which is a simple piano motif, but is the initial hooking factor. It has a sense of calm and quiet about it, which quickly dissolves into a more ambient experience. When that theme disappears we lose a familiar melody to hold onto, which in turn makes us feel unsafe. It's a great suspense technique for an atmospheric score like this. I know some people run for cover when they hear adjectives like “ambient” or “tonal”, but I assure you this is not a droning score. Kraemer does an excellent job at crafting builds and arcs that are a thrill to experience. The music does engage the listener in subtle ways. It never pulls you, but rather pushes you so you never feel like you’re being forced on this journey. But it will nudge you along suspense arcs with greatly crafted precision. The score doesn’t try to unsettle you with dissonance, which means you never feel bashed over the head. Kraemer’s entire aesthetic is aurally pleasing but emotionally thrilling. The music layers some textures including guitar plucking, which gives the score a shape. The finale track brings the journey to a great conclusion that signals a tonal shift as we come up for air after being submerged for most of the narrative.

Joe Kraemer’s wonderful approach and melodic sensibilities are what make this score great. This could have easily been a droning bore of a score, but the way he crafted long tracks that really push the narrative is wonderful. Even as atmospheric as this score is I was still able to grab onto the subtle melodies, and feel the structure building as it progressed. That kept me engaged for the entire journey. The central theme is a great bookend to the experience, and it’s definitely a score worth exploring.