THE LAST FULL MEASURE is a movie that is based on true events and tells the story of American serviceman that was forgotten. William H. Pitsenbarger was a United States Air Force Pararescue Jumper who served as a medic in the Vietnam War. In the April of 1966, he entered a battle area and stayed with injured men, tending to them and awaiting their evacuation from the area by helicopter. After a furious onslaught from the Viet Cong the last helicopter was forced to leave for fear of it being hit. Airman Pitsenbarger chose to stay with the wounded infantrymen and continued to help fight off overwhelming Viet Cong troops. He stood steadfast even after being wounded several times himself, he continued to treat others in any way he could as well as distributing ammunition to those who could still resist before ultimately losing his life. The battle was one of the fiercest of the war with American forces taking heavy losses, but because of the actions Pitsenbarger took and his courageous acts at least 9 men were able to return home alive.
For his bravery and selfless initiative, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Air Force Cross. The film follows the efforts of the men he saved, his parents, andan initially reluctant Department of Defence staff member Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) to see him recognized with the Medal of Honour. The movie is a moving and emotional watch and contains a score by composer Philip Klein. There is a sound and style to the opening track that can be likened to composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Richard Stone when he scored the movie MEDAL OF HONOUR back in the 1990’s. The opening cue, is filled with a proud and highly emotive air, and evoked for me shades of both SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, the composer utilises a slightly subdued trumpet solo, which sets the scene perfectly for much of the score that follows, although this is not your normal martial sounding march totting war movie score, there is far more depth and emotion to Klein’s music. It actually takes on the persona of the American troops and enhances their story and also gives the storyline a greater atmosphere and poignancy. There are some touching and fragile sounding moments within the work, where Klein utilises both piano, solo violin and sombre and melancholy sounding woods, which manifest within the cue I KNEW WHAT HE WAS THINKING, the violin and piano returning in HE NEVER SAYS ANYTHING and re-kindling the emotions to a greater degree. The composer also employs a rich and vibrant sound in cues such as THESE THINGS WE DO SO OTHERS MAY LIVE, which is the end credits for the movie, strings, brass and shimmering percussive elements are joined by choir to create a highly emotive and affecting sound. The same instrumentation being used in the track THE LAST FULL MEASURE, which is a proud and triumphant sounding piece. This is a score I recommend, seek it out but make sure you have some tissues.
The emergence of channels such as Apple TV, Netflix, Disney plus, and other such places to watch new and old shows, films and documentaries, has shaken up the entertainment world a little. The resistance to Netflix in particular was evident when it first began to produce its own movies, but in the past three years or so these productions whether they be feature films or mini-series etc, have become in my opinion essential viewing, and along with these productions inevitably comes the scores and the soundtracks that accompany them.
So, it probably fitting that this soundtrack supplement contains a mention of one or two. With the corona virus still rampaging through the world I wonder if we will really actually return to anything like things were before the pandemic, we cannot seem to put a stop to this vile disease and the way in which we have turned to streaming and things like the aforementioned channels has been swift and now seems like a normal way of watching anything. NETFLIX I have to commend for the top quality shows and films that they have produced recently, and also I have to say that the composers and the scores and soundtracks that they have produced are also in many cases outstanding. One production which I have found compelling is THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME, which is a two hour feature, I have to say that most of the attraction of this movie has been because of (1) the brilliant performance of Robert Pattinson and (2) the atmospheric musical score. The music is the work of two composers, Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi, who together create a malevolent and chilling musical landscape that works wonderfully for the production.
The soundtrack also contains a fair amount of songs which are mainly vintage tracks, from the 1950’s or maybe 1960’s. But it’s the score I am concerned with and although the original music cues are outnumbered by songs, there are so many beautifully crafted and suitably apprehensive and melancholy music cues on the release to make it worthwhile having a listen. The music is mostly downbeat and the film is sparsely but at the same time powerfully scored, the saying less is more certainly applying to this work, I personally love scores such as this that underline the scenarios on screen subtly but effectively. The score however is not all darkness and brooding, the composers fashion so delicate and touching pieces in the form of the cue UP UP UP, for example which opens initially as a lullaby slanted piece, but after a while sinewy strings are added which bring uncertainty and a sinister air to the proceedings, the cue DELUSIONS too begins with something that the listener may identify as being lighter fare, but the atmosphere of the cue soon alters bringing a more pronounced sound of menace to it.
The opening track KNOCKEMSTIFF.OHIO, has to it a style and mood that sets the scene for much of what is to follow, there is a melodic persona within this cue but all the time the composers are feeding in a more threatening or foreboding musical aura, which is unsettling and alluring at the same time. I think at times the music evokes the style of Christopher Young as it is melodic and attractive but also has to it a rippling and reoccurring sense of the unknown and malevolent.
Certainly, worth a listen. Another series that caught my eyes and ears is FORT SALEM music courtesy of Brandon Roberts whos music for the movie UNBROKEN-PATH TO REDEMTION I thought was amazingly good. Roberts has collaborated with the likes of Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders recently on THE WAY I SEE IT, the composers music for FORT SALEM is edgy and dramatic, it is also atonal in places but still purveys a thematic persona throughout. Again, at times subtle and minimal but also affecting and commanding because of this approach. I am not ging to say that this is a fully symphonic score because it is obvious right from the off that the composer enlists the support of electronic or synthetic instrumentation, but he fuses these with conventional elements to fashion a score that is effective within the series and also entertaining to listen too. I think inventive is the phrasing that best suits the score, with cues such as BALOONS being a mix of the dramatic and driving but still retaining hints of themes. The composer employing frantic percussive elements alongside drone like sounds and searing punctuation to fashion an affecting and forceful sound. Then we have the track MOTHER AND DAUGHTER which is just the opposite, being more emotive and poignant. Worth checking out.
HOMECOMING was an interesting first season that aired in 2018/2019, with season two now becoming just as irresistible, the music is in my opinion wonderful, composer Emile Mosseri has penned a set of themes and beautiful delicate pieces that are more than pleasing to listen to as just music, the score also supporting and assisting the series greatly, this is a soundtrack that boasts a plethora of rich and lyrical music, beautifully crafted to enhance and adorn each scenario where it is employed.
The composer has also recently scored the film KAJILLIONAIRE, again this is a superbly romantic and thematic work, with piano taking the lead in the majority of cues, it is I know a new score but posses a sound and style that I associate with the golden age of film music as in it has a classical and concerto like persona. The themes are ravishingly attractive, the composer adding his music to the film as an artist adds colour to a canvas. The use of wordless female voice within the work is striking and evokes the romantic sounds of Italian film scores from the 1960’s, which is dominant in cues such as INFINITE LOVE and LOVE THEME, the composer also utilises voices or synth voices as I cannot be sure which they are within the score to great effect.
I really love this soundtrack, its one that took me by surprise, it is also one that I have listened to over and over in less than a week. It is dark in places, but these moments are short lived, most of the scores running time being filled with an abundance of melodies that are hauntingly alluring. The score also contains two songs MR LONELY which I think was originally recorded by Bobby Vincent, is performed by Angel Olsen and is a particularly attractive and interesting arrangement of the song. The composer also provided the score for THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANSICO in 2019. So, take a minute or three to check out his music.
Back to a NETFLIX series for the next score, AWAY is a series that stars Hilary Swank, who plays an American astronaut who struggles with leaving her husband and daughter behind to embark on a dangerous mission with an international space crew. The music for the series is by composer Will Bates, the score or scores for this series are serviceable and work in the show very well, its part symphonic, art synthetic samples etc, but to be fair the composer seamlessly combines both mediums and produces a work that is suitably dramatic and emotive.
I enjoyed the music a lot, with the inventive and creative sounds that Bates brings to the show. The composer at times layering hints of themes and then building these into a crescendo like finish, building and building the momentum until it finally reaches a climax. Another one to check out, like all the other scores mentioned here so far it is available on digital platforms.
Also, on Spotify you will find, DEPRAVED which Bates scored in 2019, the movie which is an update of sorts of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, contains a largely electronic score, and as one would imagine is dark, mostly atonal and foreboding.
Its also good to see the score for ELOISE AT THE PLAZA by Bruce Broughton on digital platforms as well as, BLACKBIRD by Peter Gregson, and WILDFLOWER by Dara Taylor.
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