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Pressure by Benjamin Wallfisch (Review)

posted Sep 15, 2015, 8:08 PM by Kaya Savas

Pressure is a suspense film about a group of oil rig divers who get stuck at the bottom of the ocean. Scoring duties went to the fantastic Benjamin Wallfisch whose talents are truly unmatched. The moody atmosphere, claustrophobic setting and high stakes for the characters all present a pretty large challenge for any composer. Wallfisch’s more reserved approach was a successful one.

Pressure was able to utilize Wallfisch’s wonderful knack for dramatic structure and he was able to do it with a very reserved approach. If you listen to Ben’s past scores you’ll notice what a fantastic writer he is when it comes to themes, melodies and orchestration. Here he had to do his magic with literally none of that. In an essence, the musical needs for this film stripped away all of Wallfisch’s most treasured tools. So for a good chunk of this score we are left in the tombs of darkness that is the ocean floor. This is more than just a dark brooding score though, and it isn’t one from start to finish thankfully. Wallfisch opens the score with a bit of majestic prologue that slowly descends into the more brooding stuff. You’ll notice the orchestral elements fade away for more of an electronic soundscape, and if there is a weakness in the score I think it would be here. I’m not one of those “anti-electronic” score purists who scoffs at the use of them, but I just don’t think they were used exceptionally well to create bubbling tension. They work, but for some reason it felt like the movie changed personalities for a split second. Thankfully they really are only used strongly for that initial establishing of the plunge into darkness. Once we are in deep with all the stakes on the table, the score works supremely and effectively. Then we finish in a wonderful orchestral flourish that Wallfisch does so damn well. “Descent Ascent” is a beautiful track that progresses well into the resolution of the whole narrative.

Pressure is a great score that showcases a different side of Wallfisch’s talents. It’s a great suspense tale that only has a few moments of weakness near the beginning of the second act. The electronic textures felt a bit misused at times, but it never detracted from how efficient the whole package was. The ending is a prime example of what Benjamin Wallfisch does so well, and that’s write grand emotional arcs that really are the backbones of the films he works on.