Thursday, July 25, 2013

Before ‘Lincoln’ there was the ‘The Patriot’

John Williams received his 48th Academy Award Nomination for his elegant and restrained score of Americana music for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”. But before there was “Lincoln”, John Williams created another Americana infused soundtrack for a very different kind of American legend in an earlier historical era when he scored “The Patriot” in 2000.

Director Roland Emmerich brought the same storytelling sensibilities and crowd pleasing instincts he did to “Stargate” (1994), “Independence Day” (1996), and later “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), for his first serious film. Although a far cry from the subtle artistry and painstaking historical accuracy of “Lincoln”, “The Patriot” is not a film to be easily dismissed. A slick and entertaining action drama starring a pre-off-his-rocker Mel Gibson, "The Patriot" shares many of the same traits as the star’s Oscar winning epic “Braveheart” (1995). The film also boasts gorgeous (and Oscar nominated) cinematography by the father of “New Girl” Zooey Deschanel, Caleb Deschanel
“The Patriot” arrived at a crucial point just before William’s style began to evolve in a creative explosion that began with “A.I” (2001), “Minority Report” (2002), and “Catch Me If You Can” (2002). “The Patriot” is the last score in the classic William’s blockbuster mode; perhaps not as complex as many of the scores that followed, but always instantly emotionally accessible.The “Patriot” is a fascinating and unique entry in the John William’s canon. It is one of the very few times he has ever stepped in as a composer for hire, especially in the back half of his career. And it marks the last time outside of the “Harry Potter” franchise he has ever composed the soundtrack to a film that did not have Steven Spielberg or George Lucas’s name attached to it. Remember "Memoirs of a Geisha" was a Spielberg/Amblin production.
As is the case with most John Williams’ albums, the soundtrack is expertly sequenced for maximum enjoyment and emotional impact. Track one “The Patriot” introduces us to the two main themes and bold, stirring statements that set the tone for the entire listening experience of the score.

And my god what sensational themes they are; a rousing fully developed, flexible main heroic melody that soars alongside so many other great William’s marches, from “Superman” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and especially his vast canon of Olympic music. Serving as the perfect complement to the heroic fanfare of “The Patriot” is an absolutely gorgeous love theme that is often heard first with a heart-breaking violin solo before escalating into an emotional crescendo of glorious sentiment.

There is also plenty of great action music in tracks like “Facing The British Line” and grim, dramatic cues reminiscent of “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) in “Redcoats At The Farm And The Death Of Thomas” and “The Burning Of The Plantation”.
Perhaps the most beautiful cue on the soundtrack is when the love theme is played with a flute and a guitar in an exquisite arrangement of the love theme in “Susan Speaks” and is combined with a another melody. This track is John Williams at his most sentimental and tear-jerking effective. But before you succumb and need to reach for the hanky, the album moves into the rousing “Martin vs. Tavington”, an absolute knockout dramatic action cue.

The two main themes, the dramatic secondary themes and the action music complement each other in such a seamless synergistic fashion; they always feel part of same movement of a grand symphony. This is John Williams at his operatic best, creating a musical tapestry that weaves a web of irresistible sonic delight taking the listener on an exciting sonic adventure and an emotional journey.
“The Patriot” is an underrated and often overlooked John Williams’ soundtrack, a minor masterpiece and a top 25 Williams’ score. It is beautifully crafted, flawlessly presented, and emotionally engaging from start to finish. Like everything the maestro creates, it is a score with so much heart.

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