Helen Murdoch on her favourite movie soundtrack…
Music is paramount to the success of a film. Hit the wrong note; include the wrong song and the whole can kilter off balance. Take Steven Soderbergh’s female actioner Haywire – although a flawed film it had some great action, but for me all this was ruined by the choice of music. It felt as if it was leftover from Ocean’s Eleven and completely changed the tone of the film.
When thinking about my favourite movie soundtrack/score numerous options went through my mind – from Inception through to Se7en, Drive, The Godfather, Trance and so on – but in my mind no score has fit more perfectly then Danny Boyle’s 2007 sci-fi effort Sunshine. Set in a future where our sun is dying, the story follows a group of trained astronauts, physicists, and scientists as they head off to kick start the sun. Sunshine is a hugely underrated sci-fi film that covers many themes; from man’s own destruction, religion and the influence of science it is a seminal film with a soundtrack like no other.
Frequent Boyle collaborators John Murphy and Underworld took the reins and produced a cinematic classic opera to accompany Boyle’s visually stunning film. From beginning to end the score follows the peaks and troughs of the doomed Icarus crew to pitch perfection. The grandeur of the score is in direct correlation to the magnificent of the sun. Boyle’s film is all about the power of the sun and the deep bass of the piano, juxtaposed with the elegance of strings fits exquisitely.
Although Sunshine isn’t a perfect film – its third act plays a bit too similar to Event Horizon in my mind – it is matched with some stand out pieces of music. For example there’s a moment in the film when the crew get to see Mercury rotating around the sun. A visually stunning piece of cinema is added to with a fantastic piece of music that combines a simple piano and guitar rhythm with ethereal noises and synthesizers. As with all sci-fi films, things don’t go to plan and during its more unnerving and frightening sequences, Murphy and Underworld pile on the bass and synth and create some unusual tracks that heighten the tension. If you’ve seen Sunshine then I’m sure you’re aware of what moments I’m talking about. A scene in which two of the crew have to suit up and leave the ship to fix some hardware is matched with dramatic grandeur with an eclectic mix of electrical drums and synth.
The standout and most memorable piece of music from the soundtrack is Sunshine – or The Surface of the Sun as some people like to call it. Although it’s now become the go to music for advertisers, there’s no denying the power of John Murphy’s piece. With its heavy bass openings, slow strings and uplifting tone, it fits perfectly with the crescendo of the film. It gradually builds momentum and pace until it reaches its elevating climax.
The final track Capa Meets the Sun is my personal favourite on the whole soundtrack. It’s simplicity at its best and fits perfectly with the finale of the film. Music is there to provide the extra emotional punch and this piece does it for me. It fits the tone exactly and brings all the issues raised throughout the film to a close with elegant style.
The score of Sunshine is my favourite simply because I think it’s the best example of how music can elevate a film into something more. The soundtrack is powerful and fits with the rise and fall of the crew expertly. Sunshine has all the components for a classic film – exciting plot, great acting, exceptional visuals and effects and a score that fits with the tone perfectly. Getting the tone wrong for this soundtrack would have ruined the whole film in my eyes, but thankfully John Murphy and Underworld joined forces and created the best score I have ever heard.
As a lover of film the soundtrack is just as important as the film, what soundtrack do you rate above any other?