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Frost/Nixon by Hans Zimmer


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 Frost/Nixon (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer
Frost/Nixon (Poster and Memorabilia)








Frost/Nixon (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

Composed by Hans Zimmer
Promo Release (2008)

Rating: 6/10

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“...FROST/NIXON isn't the type of score that film music fans will be clamoring to get a hold is just the type of film and score that tend to make their way to all sorts of nomination lists. Just like the film, the score is serviceable but it is difficult to shake the feeling the both could have been much more. ”

The Dark Thread of Nixon
Review by Christopher Coleman

Director Ron Howard's latest effort, FROST/NIXON explores the story behind the most watched television interview in history - the interview of resigned President Nixon by British television host/personality, David Frost. Howard explores the untold story behind the formulation of the contract between the two and each man's motivations for doing it. Somewhat surprisingly, Howard chose composer Hans Zimmer to provide the musical backdrop for the film. I say "surprisingly" because of the type of film FROST/NIXON is. This isn't a suspense thriller like THE DA VINCI CODE or ANGELS AND DEMONS, where the talents of ZIMMER make good sense. Instead it is very intimate presentation; almost on an indy-film level.  It's a film that just doesn't immediately evoke the thought of HANS ZIMMER. In the end, those who were of age to remember the Frost-Nixon interview (and old enough to understand and care), this film will likely be of high interest. For those outside of that population, FROST/NIXON might be difficult to connect to and Zimmer's aptly subdued score is unlikely to push the masses to go out and grab this soundtrack either.

FROST/ NIXON has quite a few things going for it among them: the mystery of this untold story, its director, and its actors. The story behind the David Frost interviews with President Richard Nixon is an intriguing one. Ron Howard has shown that he can do the intimate portrait stories like CINDERELLA MAN or A BEAUTIFUL MIND and,  while this story is of a different nature, his past successes lends confidence that he could well handle the portrayal of these events. For FROST/NIXON, Howard recreates the world of the late 1970's and presents the film more like a documentary than a drama. With both Michael Sheen as David Frost and Frank Langella as Richard Nixon, having starred in the award-winning stage-play written by Peter Morgan, these characters were ones that they were quite familiar with and able to bring screen-life to. Their performances are receiving award-buzz already; however, how worthy these performances are is debateable. To appreciate their performances it seems Howard expects that his audience is either familiar with the stage-play or are already familiar with these historical characters to a significant degree. For those, like me, who remember the event, but was too young to really comprehend what was going on or even care, too much time has passed and not enough is done within the film to truly connect these characters to the audience. One last asset, albeit a surprising one, is the employment of HANS ZIMMER as the score's composer. Certainly jumping outside of his milieu, FROST/NIXON provides the prolific composer with a different kind of subject matter for which he must interpret musically.

Before diving into Zimmer's score, let's go back a few years. No. Not back to the mid-Seventies, but to the mid-Nineties. One of Oliver Stone's best works was the 1995 film NIXON. It's epic scale and powerful performances help to garner it 4 Oscar nominations. Among those four was one for JOHN WILLIAMS' poignant score. For those that saw the film and have enjoyed William's score, it is hard not to think of either before, during and after their viewing of FROST/NIXON. As it turns out NIXON sits in stark contrast to Ron Howard and Hans Zimmer's film. NIXON was huge in scope. FROST/NIXON is small and personal, but both film's had a thread of darkness running through them. While very different from one another, just as the film's are connected by the central character, so these two scores are connected by this dark thread. Zimmer's minimalist approach to Ron Howard's film is the only one that would fit, which is what makes the selection of Hans Zimmer somewhat surprising. No doubt, Zimmer's voice comes through but there are other moments that seem tailored to the talents of a Phillip Glass, Alexandre Desplat, Thomas Newman, or even a James Horner.

We are introduced to all of the main ingredients in first couple of tracks. Track 1, "Watergate" is dark and heavy strings provide the backbone and establish the dark-thread immediately - like The Da Vinci Code lite. Zimmer increases the tension through cellos and piano, exchanging performance of a quick rising and falling motif which serves as the score's most consistent segment and could be called it's main theme. Zimmer makes good use of the motif in some of the score's most intense moments: "Research Montage" (7) and the finale "Nixon Defeated" (8), where we hear a very mournful performance of the motif on cello.

Coursing in the background of several tracks, beginning with "Watergate," we perceive a light but methodical "clicking" as if the entire movie is sitting on a time-bomb. This "clicking" device is used throughout the score and will be familiar to those fans of Zimmer's contribution to BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT. This percussive device is another consistency of the score and it can be found in tracks with a wide range of textures. While it is clearly of the pensive/suspenceful variety in track 1, we hear it begin the track but become overlaid with countless other chromatics, bass, strings and piano, in "Beverly Hilton" (3) - one of the more upbeat pieces. Later in "Money" (6) the dark-thread becomes more pronounced again as cellos and heartbeat-like bass surround this "clock" element. "Money" is a good example of FROST/NIXON feeling much more contemporary than one might expect for a film depicting events of the 1970s, but it merely opens the door to the most contemporary track of this promo, "Research Montage" (7). This track would be right at home in modern warfare world of THE BOURNE IDENTITY or even the game franchise CALL OF DUTY. Such diversion calls attention to the point that there are likely others who have contributed to this work which, this time, only bears the name of "Hans Zimmer."

2008 has certainly been another busy year for HANS ZIMMER. For those that love to hate the work of Hans Zimmer or even his composing process, it's hard to argue that he isn't continuing to branch out into new genres.  He already has efforts like KUNG FU PANDA, THE DARK KNIGHT, and MADAGASCAR 2 under his belt, but FROST/NIXON might be his most surprising this year. On the one hand, it's a score that sadly disappears into the collective weight of the film.  Of course, we are told that this "disappearing" is the intent of a film score and I a point.  Now, on the other hand, I also believe a film score can, and when necessary, should lift a film when it becomes flat. FROST/NIXON does have such moments of "flatness" but Zimmer's score doesn't come to the rescue.  Varèse Sarabande's official release offers an additional six tracks, but evenso, FROST/NIXON isn't the type of score that film music fans will clamoring to get a hold of.  Ironically, it remains just the type of film and score that tend to make their way to all sorts of nomination lists. Like the film, the score is serviceable but it is difficult to shake the feeling that it could have been much more.

Rating: 6/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Watergate 4:37  ***
2 Last Day 2:32  ***
3 Beverly Hilton 2:31  ***
4 Insanely Risky 2:54  ***
5 Frost Despondent 2:30  ***
6 Money 2:56  **
7 Research Montage 3:08  ***
8 Nixon Defeated 3:26  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 25 minutes  



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