Windtalkers (Soundtrack) by James Horner



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Windtalkers (Soundtrack) by James Horner

New, Old, Borrowed
Review by Christopher Coleman


Windtalkers by James Horner


Windtalkers (Soundtrack) by James Horner


Category  |   Score

Originality 7
Music Selection 8
Composition 7
CD Length 7
Track Order 8
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10


Real Audio Clips






James Horner


Quick Quotes

"Windtalkers is, without doubt, the most disappointing (not to mention relatively depressing) score of 2002 thus far; it might serve as an "OK" listen for newcomers to the medium and composer, but I have a feeling anybody who knows their fair share of Horner and his work will pass this one off after just one listen -- there's simply nothing new here." **

Jason Farcone - Reviews Windtalkers



Composed and Conducted by James Horner
Album Produced by Simon Rhodes and James Horner
Performed by Tommy Morgan (Harmonica Solos), Phil Ayling (Indian Flutes)
Released by RCA Victor Records May 5, 2001

After seemingly endless delays (not that there haven't been plenty of war-films to keep audiences occupied), Director John Woo's Windtalkers finally makes its way to screens in June of 2002.  Originally slated for release in November of 2001, MGM delayed the theatrical release due to, among other reasons, the tragedies of September 11, 2001.  With more than half a year passed since 9/11, and a handful of other war-based films already being released, the time for one of the more anticipated war films has arrived.

Interestingly enough the potential, or lack thereof, for this score has already been discussed and debated over thoroughly, since it was announced ages ago that James Horner would be the film composer hired for this film.  The film music world reamins cleanly divided over Horner's music, especially of the last five years.  Either he is loved despite his continued use of the same thematic elements time and time again or he is maligned for them.  Of course, Horner-haters around the world have many other complaints against the composer as well. In spite all of the hatred and disdain, there remains a large, faithful, albeit occasionally disappointed, group of fans and Windtalkers has been eagerly anticipated by this forgiving group.

So the question is, "What Horner category does Windtalkers fall into?"  Is there something new from the composer?  Is the music merely a rehash of his previous works?  Has the ol boy borrowed a bit from some other composer again?  Well, the answer is a resounding "Yes" to all three questions.

Right from the very onset of track 1, Navajo Dawn Track 2 - Across the Stars, the listener's attention is grabbed by a haunting, Native American voice.  Ah ha!  Something new!  Maybe a bit expected, given the plot of the film, but it is an interest-peaking element. Unfortunately, the evocative vocals do not appear again on the soundtrack until the concluding track, Calling to the Wind (11).  On the other hand, the sparing use of the vocals make them all the more effective when they are heard.

Layering in behind these vocals are the familiar notes of a well-used Horner secondary theme.  Yes, something old.  Found in The Perfect Storm, Deep Impact, and even as far back as Braveheart, the strings and brass exchange performances of the simple melody which is clearly used to evoke feelings of heroism, honor, and humanity.  Refraining from directly quoting selections from earlier projects, Horner makes slight of variations on the theme and performance.  Still, this will no doubt be fodder for every certified Hater, but the Horner-devoted will easily accept it and, yes, enjoy it! 

Building tension and drama, Horner reverts to his well-worn tricks of the trade.  A variation of the Apollo 13-snare makes a number of appearances and it simply would not be a James Horner project without the menacing four-notes-of-evil motif!  The early appearance of both of these elements will likely turn some away from this score simply out of frustration.  James Horner also brings back Tania's Theme from Enemy at the Gates, which, as we know, was used prior to the 2001 score in 1997's Titanic.  Yes, Windtalkers does offer something "old," and some would say something "very old."

Borrow something?  James Horner?  Never!  Well, maybe on occasion and Windtalkers appears to be one of those very occasions.  Something that makes Windtalkers a stand-out effort from Horner are, surprisingly, the action cues.  Marine Assault (7) Track 2 - Across the Stars and Friends in War (9) feature an interesting use of echoing trumpet triplets a la Alex North.  Instantly bringing to memory North's epic score for Spartacus, Horner injects some classic spice into each of these pieces that causes one to take note instead of resigning the cue away as totally "canned" Horner action.  Whether Horner had North in mind, we'll likely never know, but in the end, its inclusion is a welcome one.

The dualism that pervades throughout this film is found throughout the score.  Spiritual life is contrasted with bloodshed and death.  Freedom is contrasted with discipline, the eternal with the temporal.  Without even seeing the film itself, one can easily discern these ideas and themes.  In life these things do not oppose one another necessarily but, from certain points of view, they harmonize.  Through an adequate mix of "new," "old," and "borrowed,"  Horner is able to convey these ideas and their relationship to one another.  For accomplishing this task, James Horner must be given his due; however, the composer's inability to stay away from employing so many oft used thematic elements, seemingly, at the first opportunity afforded, a defection or two from the ranks of the devoted might be imminent, but with a little patience and a few listens, Windtalkers rises above the "same ol' Horner score."  In the end, film's like Windtalkers, those which put very real humans in the midst of the most dramatic of circumstances, give composer James Horner the perfect scenario in which to touch the listener with his music.


Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Navajo Dawn Track 2 - Across the Stars 7:54  ****
2 A New Assignment 4:38  ***
3 An Act of Heroism 5:59  ***
4 Taking the Beachhead 6:17  ****
5 "First Blood" Ceremony Track 2 - Across the Stars 2:09  ***
6 The Night Before 3:32  ****
7 Marine Assault Track 2 - Across the Stars 5:40  *****
8 Losses Mounting 5:06  ****
9 Friends in War 7:56  ****
10 A Sacrifice Never Forgotten 7:11  ***
11 Calling to the Wind 10:33  ****

Total Running Time


Windtalkers (Soundtrack) by James Horner

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
Apollo 13  | Braveheart  |  The Perfect Storm  |  Enemy at the Gates



All artwork from Hearts in Atlantis  is exclusive property of RCA Victor Records (c) 2001. 
 Its appearance is for informational purposes only. Review format version 5.7


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