Ben Affleck stars and directs this prohibition gangster film that follows Joe Coughlin in his rise to becoming a bootlegger and notorious gangster in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The great thing here is that this film reconnects Ben with his composer, Harry Gregson-Williams. Harry has composed all of Ben’s films minus Argo of course. For Argo it’s only speculation, but it seems Desplat was mostly likely forced onto the project by producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov to make the film "Oscar friendly". Given that Harry’s score to Spy Game ended up being used in the Argo itself, one can comfortably assume that Ben wanted Harry on Argo. But that is in the past, and here they get to reunite and Harry hits the ground running in his signature style for one fantastically melodically brooding score.
Harry is an auteur composer, and his sound will be present in every score he writes. Live By Night is no exception, and Harry’s dark and brooding side is put to the test. The music is rich with lots of deep strings and brass textures. Harry paints a nice portrait of Joe Coughlin in the opening track with that signature Harry solo trumpet piercing through brooding strings. As the score moves through the narrative, we are treated to some great atmospheric builds and engrossing suspense cues. I really loved the mood and tone established by the music, Harry has a masterful control over the tone and mood of the entire film through his score. The music fleshes out the stylish world of the narrative, and feels like it was born from it. This doesn't feel like a period piece score, but it just feels right. There’s an odd elegance and beauty that emerges on the surface of it all, making the music somewhat oozing with a hazy romance even though it’s suspenseful and dark for a majority of the running time. The film really allows Harry to work with a great and unique canvas that he hasn't had before, and he makes the most out of it. By the end, everything comes to a calming close by removing the dark clouds, and it all wraps up with that signature Harry piano sendoff.
Live By Night is Harry working within his signature style, but also exploring some moods and atmospheres he hasn’t ventured into yet. The score is dark and brooding, but also has an elegant and romantic quality to it. The score builds scenes masterfully by creating great arcs and focusing on melodic structure. There are few bursts of melodic action as well that keep a certain energy infused into the score even though the music works mostly right under the surface while never coming to a full boil. Live By Night is a rich and full-bodied score that never lays it on too thick, it’s moody and intriguing while also being very engaging. This is top-notch Harry, and it shows that he and Ben Affleck work extremely well together. Hopefully no one tries to break them apart again (HINT HINT, LET HARRY SCORE BEN’S BATMAN! JUST DO IT WB!).
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