Soundtrack Review: THE TOWN
The poster for THE TOWN alone lets you know one thing is for certain – shit is about to go down. To that end, I expected a score that would go full force from beginning to end as these criminals went up against the law, their hometown, and each other. However, the score turned out to be subtle, yet suspenseful, keeping to the background rather than fighting for center stage with the action and the actors.
THE TOWN re-teams Ben Affleck with the director’s chair, the streets of Boston, and composer Henry Gregson-Williams, whom he worked with on his directorial debut, GONE BABY GONE. This time around, Affleck added a few more hats to his head (actor, writer) and Gregson-Williams added David Buckley (FROM PARIS WITH LOVE) as his collaborator to create the score.
The first track, “Charlestown," is soft and almost sad as the sonic representation of a town said to be populated mainly by bank robbers and criminals. This plays as a stark contrast to the driving and electronic “Bank Attack” that propels us through the heist that opens the film. The opposing natures of these first two pieces reflect the two moods of the film itself – part tragedy, part suspense. Yes, this is a heist film, but in Affleck’s Doug MacRay you also feel a sense of sorrow and constant regret. Doug is not a bank robber who likes what he does, who gets a sense of joy or even an adrenaline rush from it (we leave this to his partner in crime, Jeremy Renner’s Jem), he wants out. Doug’s struggle with being that bank robber versus leaving it all behind can be heard and felt as the score moves from slow to fast-paced, suspenseful to soft.
Usually film score, particularly for a thriller, is much more prominent and becomes almost a character itself. However, you usually do not see scored pieces with the titles like “OxyContin” and “Nuns with Guns” either. Gregson-Williams and Buckley did create an understated theme that plays up when the story hones in on Doug himself (“Doug Reflects," “Healing And Stealing”) to help in reminding us that beyond the struggle between the criminals and the law, is the struggle within our main character himself.
When Affleck screened a few scenes from THE TOWN during the LA Film Festival this past summer, I noticed him reacting uncomfortably as the scenes played. Just another director self-criticizing his own work? No – it turned out the unfinished mix had been synchronized to the scenes and was missing the music stem. We as the audience were certainly more caught up in the car chase we were watching to have noticed, but having now seen the scene with the full mix behind it, I understand that even though it is a subtle addition, it helps in rounding things out instead of relying solely on sound effects and amplified volume.
THE TOWN is as much a character piece as it is about bank robberies. The score helps maintain that underlying emotional resonance, even as our characters are flying down the streets of Boston at 90 miles an hour. The score did well to support the film and help flesh out each scene, but is not something that is necessarily a component unto itself. Affleck may have squirmed watching his scenes sans music, but I felt that the music without the scenes was also lacking. The score was intended to remain in the background of the film and succeeds in doing just that.
This soundtrack is available through Silva Screen Records.
2. “Bank Attack”
3. “Doug Reflects”
4. “FBI Show & Tell”
6. “Healing And Stealing”
7. “Nuns With Guns”
8. “The Necklace”
9. “The Wreath”
10. “Cathedral Of Boston”
12. “Who Called 911?”
13. “Making The Switch”
14. “Sunny Days”
16. “The Letter”
All the songs on this soundtrack were composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley.