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Soundtrack Review: Alan Silvestri – Allied (2016)

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(Note: The following soundtrack review is based on listening experience alone and not on how the music works to picture.)

Alan Silvestri is one of the most underrepresented film music composers out there today. One just has to take a look at his scores for Judge Dredd, Predator, Van Helsing and The Mummy Returns (that main action motif is dope!), but that’s just scratching the surface. His versatility can best be encompassed when taking his work for director Robert Zemeckis into account.

The Back To The Future-trilogy, Forrest Gump, The Polar-Express or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Are all nothing short of amazing!

Fortunately, Zemeckis is still making movies and he still enlists his buddy Silvestri.

Unfortunately, their latest collaboration, Allied, is pretty unremarkable.

Not Silvestri’s best score…

Set during World War II, Allied deals with an intelligence officer, who encounters a French Resistance fighter in North Africa. The two fall in love, but their relationship is put under a lot of pressure, due to the war.

Naturally, a film like this doesn’t seem to call for an overbearing orchestral extravaganza as heard in Van Helsing or The Mummy Returns but also not for the sweetness of Forrest Gump. It’s a dark time, the love is doomed and the anxiety is high.

The well-versed craftsman he is, Silvestri really does manage to portrait all of this in his score. The main theme, introduced right away in the first few bars of “Essaouria Desert/Main Title” on piano, accompanied by harp and woodwinds, is simple, but effective. It all starts pretty romantic, until the darkness takes over and suspenseful percussion set in.

That first track sums up the remaining album pretty well, to be honest. The emotional drama is pleasing and every appearance of the main theme, be it on piano or oboe, does its work, but it’s just not very interesting. Silvestris has written much stronger themes in his career.

The thriller-music is the scores biggest weakness, though, relying exclusively on modern drum loops and thudding bass, completely devoid of any theme at all. There are neither interpolations of the main theme, nor does the composer create a secondary theme for the dark parts. “German Embassy” and the latter half of “Trust” are especially guilty of this.

Thus, one has to focus on the more orchestral parts, which are, despite their lack of “the certain something”, not bad at all. In fact, there are actually some hidden highlights.

…but still with some emotional highlights

“Best Day Ever” has a nice piano performance of the main theme, while “It’s A Girl” is pure beauty throughout and probably the score’s only moment of real optimism. Even when other tracks address the romance, like “What Are Your Odds?”, there is always that subtle hint of tragedy underneath, while “It’s A Girl” does allow the listener to simply feel good for once. It’s really sweet and moving.

The best track of the score is “The Letter/End Credits”, a 6-minute long piece, which has some great combination of strings and woodwinds when showcasing the main theme and since it’s the longest piece, incorporating the credits-suite, it gives the music room to expand itself. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s good.

Sadly, that’s already it. The CD itself is pretty short with only 42 minutes of music and of that, only 27 minutes are actual score. Those 27 minutes do pass by very quickly, so the score isn’t tediously boring or something, just, nothing special.

The special part is actually the remainder of the album, filled with period appropriate jazz and blues numbers. “The Sheik Of Araby” is Silvestri’s arrangement of a 1921 written piece by Ted Snyder, Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler and is simply fun.

The other pieces are amazing as well, but nothing compares to “Sing Sing Sing” by Louis Prima, New Orleans-jazz at its best. You really have to check it out.

All in all, Allied is certainly not Silvestri at his best, but it’s probably safe to say, that he still has written a solid score. It has some nice, albeit brief, moments of tragedy and romance and the boring drum-textures are fortunately kept to a minimum. If you’re a hardcore Silvestri-fan, you will find two, or three good cues, but in general, this is not a “must have”.

Allied is just okay, but a legend like Silvestri can do that sometimes. With an oeuvre like his, nobody is going to fault you for something like that, if it still has a good suite in it.

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Long-time film music enthusiast, living and studying in Bremen, Germany.

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