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The Fifth Estate by Carter Burwell (Review)

posted Oct 2, 2013, 7:47 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Oct 2, 2013, 7:47 PM ]

Carter Burwell is one of my favorite composers. He has an instantly identifiable sound that I love. His music for directors Spike Jonze, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Martin McDonagh all beat at the heart of their respective films. Unfortunately, his latest outing for the technological crime thriller, The Fifth Estate, is an almost complete departure for the musician, venturing into a more contemporary palette of electronic sounds and rhythms.

While the modern electronica overtones of the music fit with the subject matter of the film, there is little else here that warrants a separate listen. The movie revolves around two web designers that invent a platform for people to leak confidential government information and secrets, and stumble upon a massive trove of documents that could create serious national consequences if exposed. Burwell uses sonic textures and beats to compliment this technological aspect of the storytelling, but they are not used particularly well. There is little musical substance in terms of structure and flow that draws you into the narrative. It all blends and meshes into a singular fabric, a wall of sound, with no real development or variation in the composition. There are bursts of classic Burwell that fight out from beneath the noise, but they are few and far in between throughout the album presentation. Some piano and strings get the spotlight towards the end, with "Take The Fight To Them" echoing stronger Burwell tones and patterns. "The Destruction Of The Platform" through to the final track, "Asylum," is a better 'score' in and of itself. Signature Carter Burwell in these tracks, so fans may want to stick with this portion for their listening pleasure.

Hollywood is slowly becoming a place with little room for unique musical voices. It is in such a state that one cannot really blame someone like Burwell for resorting to contemporary anti-structure and sounds to fuel their scores, especially if you're being replaced on such promising projects like Gangster Squad and Thor: The Dark World because your voice isn't attached to movies that sell. The Fifth Estate is worth the trip for the resolution, where Burwell's style is able to breathe and send off the story in a much more satisfying manner than how it began.