The latest offering from composer James Newton Howard is RED SPARROW, which is a score that I will recommend to you even before you read my review, it is a work that in my opinion is one of the composers best so far in his ever expanding and ever surprising Canon of work for the cinema. Year, with the sound achieved in the golden age of Hollywood Newton Howard has been known in the past to employ synthesised sounds and electronic instrumentation, and I thought given the films content and settings he might again turn to these for support in creating the score, however, I am pleased to say that RED SPARROW contains a predominantly symphonic score, and one which in my ever so humble opinion fuses the styles of classical as in the great musical Masters of yester-year such as Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich with sounds and styles created by the Hollywood greats of the golden age such as Korngold, Waxman, Steiner and most noticeably Bernard Herrmann, in fact there are definite nods in the direction of Herrmann within the score, which of course is no bad thing. Newton Howard fashions a soundtrack that is filled with apprehension and overflowing with uneasy sounding melodies, that trick the listener into a false sense of security, initially putting them at their ease, but then slowly but surely begins to unnerve and unsettle them as the score progresses. The composer does also enlist the aid of synthesised sounds within the work, but manages to mix both synthetic and symphonic elements together without jarring or making it obvious. This is an attractive and a foreboding score, which relies upon the brass, Percussion and string sections in the main. When the composer is not underling the action on screen with ominous sounding edgy layers of sounds he is elevating and giving support to other scenarios with a pulsating and vibrant work that has a somewhat troubled romantic side to it. In many ways I was reminded of Herrmann’s CAPE FEAR or VERTIGO, as the music is one-minute quiet and even understated, then suddenly it rises and becomes turbulent and driving. One of my favourite cues on the soundtrack is ARRIVING AT SPARROW SCHOOL, this is low key at the offset and has to it an almost serene and celestial choral sound, underlined by strings and supported by a sorrowful cello solo this however is soon overwhelmed and replaced by an anxious mood that is conjured up by the composers use of the same instrumentation, but obviously utilised in a differing fashion. RED SPARROW is dark and threatening, apprehensive and edgy, but is also throughout laced with a rich and lusciously lavish presence that is romantic and delicate. Little touches of fragility complimenting and acting as a pre-cursor to the more robust moments.
This style of scoring is more pronounced in cues such as BLONDE SUITS YOU, TICKET TO VIENNA and CAN I TRUST YOU? The crowning glory of the score is the end titles track, which runs to nearly ten minutes in duration, the composer returning to a classical sound which could be from any of the works of the aforementioned Russian Master’s which he arranges and segues into a powerful Herrmann-esque piece for full orchestra. Complete with rasping brass, booming percussion and urgent surging strings, before he returns to a low key and calming approach again sounding similar to Herrmann’s VERTIGO, which brings the cue and the recording to an end. Highly recommended.