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The Hurt Locker by Marco Beltrami
and Buck Sanders

The Hurt Locker

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 The Hurt Locker (Soundtrack) by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
The Hurt Locker (Soundtrack)  by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
The Hurt Locker (Poster and Memorabilia)








The Hurt Locker (Soundtrack) by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders

The Hurt Locker
Composed by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
Lionsgate Records (2010)

Rating: 5/10

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Soundclips below from AmazonMP3


“Much of this score is jarring and discordant, which takes tremendous skill to pull off. One misstep, and you have grating ambient noise instead of creative avant-garde music."

The Art Locker
Review by Helen San

THE HURT LOCKER is a tense action drama about one soldier’s addiction to war, masterfully directed by Kathryn Bigelow (STRANGE DAYS, K19). The title refers to a place of extreme pain, often used to speak of those injured by explosions. Following three soldiers in the EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) squad in Iraq, the story attempts to capture a glimpse of their heightened fears, hypervigilance, and fragile psyche for the citizens at home. Although the film’s accuracy has been disputed by Iraq veterans, there is no question the movie, realistic or not, is theatrically engrossing. It brings average Americans to the edge of their seats, as empathetic of the suffering of the EOD squad as we can be.

The film has already earned a Best Director award from the Director’s Guild of America, beating commercial favorite and Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron (for Avatar) and making Bigelow the first woman to ever win (in 2010 no less, can you believe it?). This is a good omen for Bigelow at the Oscars, where she stands a good chance for becoming the first woman to win a Best Director award there as well. Gender issues aside, I wanted to give the director an Oscar after seeing the film, before I knew who the director was. The storytelling, for the purposes of creating unrelenting suspense and dread, is flawless.

It is no surprise to me then, that THE HURT LOCKER is a critical darling which has earned a total of nine Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture and Best Music. This is composer MARCO BELTRAMI’s second Oscar nomination (the first was 3:10 to Yuma) and long time collaborator BUCK SANDER’s first. Like quite a few movies in Oscar history, once the Academy falls in love with a film, they nominate it for everything from sound editing to cinematography to editing to…you guessed it…music. In such situations, the question burning for film music fans is this: Is the nomination a reflection of public affection for the feature or the exceptional quality of the music proper?

No doubt you have heard the phrase, “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” That’s not trite modesty; it really is an honor. Nominations in each category are only made by the nominee’s colleagues in the profession. Acting nominations are made by other actors, editing nominations are made by other film editors, and music nominations are made by other film composers. Everyone in the academy votes for the winner, which makes the win subject to popular frenzy. But the nomination—the nomination itself—that is a big pat on the back by your professional peers. I might venture that getting nominated is THE honor. So congratulations, MARCO and BUCK!

Before I saw the film, my immediate reaction to the score was “Why on earth did this get nominated?” At first glance, it sounds like stock suspense and jangle with a few Middle Eastern highlights, well crafted to be sure, but not something you listen to for fun. The fan (including yours truly) has to remember that a nomination is not made for the score on CD, but the score on screen. On screen, the score becomes meaningful and sentimental beyond the sum of its parts, like a couple’s special song from their first date.

The mood of the film had nothing as rousing as heroics or as moving as grief. It was about the routine of danger, the slow treadmill of incessant stress. Anything mellifluous would have been out of place, like a salesman at a funeral. Indeed, many of the scenes had no music at all, just palpable loss, tension, and disintegration.

Where there was music, BELTRAMI and SANDERS did a superb job complementing Bigelow’s storytelling. They portrayed feelings like fear, strain, and alienation viscerally, often by using synthesizer rhythms that emulate heart beats; shrill, scratchy strings to communicate tension and unease; and ululating Middle Eastern cries to capture the sense of vigilant paranoia in a foreign land. The title track, “The Hurt Locker” (1), is a great example of all three elements selling suspense like nobody’s business. “Hostile” (4) uses the trio again work together to establish the sense of vigilance and distrust. In another noteworthy track, “A Guest in My House” (11), the synth rhythms, along with the faux heart beats, were used very effectively to accompany the main character James running alone through the streets of an Iraqi city, in fear for his life.

The main motif of THE HURT LOCKER is introduced in “Goodnight Bastard” (2) with melancholy strings and makes a brief appearance in Hostile. The theme is repeated with a sharp Middle Eastern-sounding bowed instrument in “Oil Tanker Aftermath,” (10) and finally in a familiar Western style in “The Way I Am” (12) when James finally returned stateside. It is a short, but alluring theme that is recognizable enough to identify with the characters’ pain without being too melodious, if there is such a thing.

Much of this score is jarring and discordant, which takes tremendous skill to pull off. One misstep, and you have grating ambient noise instead of creative avant-garde music. JOHN CORIGLIANO was able to pull it off in THE RED VIOLIN, weaving a huge threads of disharmony and conflict into an artistic masterpiece—and he won an Oscar for it. I suspect the composers of the Academy might be giving BELTRAMI and SANDERS the thumbs up for having pulled it off again.

When I first commented on this score in the Tracksounds podcast, I was very hesitant about this score’s Oscar-worthiness. The more I worked on this review, the more I became appreciative of the way the composers met the unique challenges of the film. I can’t put my finger on what X-factor exists that makes this sound like jangle to one person and inspired art to another. All I can say is after three listens, I’ve been converted to the “inspired art” side. This happens sometimes. The last time was HOWARD SHORE’s COPLAND, which endeared itself to me despite its lack of the usual commercial hooks. Post-conversion, I rate the score, as heard on screen, 8 out of 10; however, the music, as a stand-alone listen, doesn't rate so highly.

As much as I admire the other Oscar nominations this year (ZIMMER, SHERLOCK HOLMES; DESPLAT, FANTASTIC MR. FOX; GIACCHINO, UP; and HORNER, AVATAR), my vote is for this vanguard Picaso of a score. Sometimes, you just gotta support the extraordinary that way.

Rating: 5/10


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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 The Hurt Locker 1:53  ***
2 Goodnight Bastard 4:10  ***
3 The Long Walk 1:44  **
4 Hostile 3:25  ***
5 B Company 2:29  **
6 Man in the Green Bomb Suit 2:03  **
7 There Will Be Bombs 2:27  **
8 Body Bomb 2:35  ***
9 Bleeding Deacon 1:17  **
10 Oil Tanker Aftermath 3:32  **
11 A Guest in My House 3:09  ***
12 The Way I Am 2:29  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 31 minutes  




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