News Archive... AKA The Old Blog

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

'Breakheart' is no 'Pass'

Breakheart Pass
Music Composed and Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith
La-La Land Records (LLLCD 1044)

Just when you think they’ve released every worthwhile Goldsmith score in the late composer’s filmography, another month passes, and a new excellent Goldsmith release is ready for shipping. As of this writing, the latest gem is La La Land’s release of Breakheart Pass, one of the many dynamite Westerns that Goldsmith scored in the first two decades of his career. The plot involves Charles Bronson and a train (I believe the original tagline read, “Get these mother-f^%#ing Charles Bronsons off this mother-f&*ing train!”), which is about all you need to know to get a feel for the score. In other words, the music is stoic and ballsy, racing with train-like momentum (though never in any obnoxious or obvious way) and pushing the adrenaline button as only Goldsmith could.

Interpretations of this score seem to vary in the film score community; I’ve seen it score described as a straight-out action thrill ride by some, and as a slow burning suspense piece by others. Both arguments have support – sometimes the music is balls-to-the-wall action, and sometimes it barely whispers with nervous suspense. Most of the time, however, the music is somewhere in between, racing with momentum, but restrained and uneasy. I’d have a hard time qualifying a cue like “On The Move / Runaway” as either straight action or straight suspense, and I don’t see any purpose in trying. Suspense and action feed off each other in this score, making for a nail-biting and riveting listen – that’s all that matters to me. Goldsmith’s general formula is to play with tension, play with extreme tension, and then when it seems like we can’t take any more tension, BAM, whip out the main theme and commence the Bronsonian ass-whoopin. Repeat as necessary, and you more or less have the score. The formula sounds banal and repetitive on paper, but you’d be surprised how many fresh and surprising ways Goldsmith can apply this formula throughout ¾ of an hour. - Paul Cote

Full review coming soon.