Music Composed And Produced By Cliff Martinez
Performed By The Hollywood Symphony Orchestra
Orchestrated And Conducted By Randy Miller
Watertower Music/Amazon On Demand
20 Tracks – Running Time: 45:27
Released Sept. 6, 2011
Contagion was the hit thriller that came out in September by reknowned director Steven Soderbergh and featured a steller cast starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law. Soon after her return from a business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff dies from what is a flu or some other type of infection. Her young son dies a few days later. Her husband Mitch however seems immune. Thus begins the spread of a deadly infection. For doctors and administrators at the U.S. Center for Disease Control, several days pass before anyone realizes the extent or gravity of this new infection. They must first identify the type of virus in question and then find a means of combating it, a process that will likely take several months. As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, societal order begins to break down as people panic. After seeing this film with a friend we were both a little frightened because the film is realistic and utterly frightening that this really could happen. This film to also think about it reminds me of the excellent little seen 1985 thriller “Warning Sign” starring Kathleen Quinlan, Sam Waterston and Jeffery DeMunn, which had a similar storyline inside a reserach facility and had an a plusing all electronic score by Craig Safan as well as another hit thriller, Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffmann, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey, featuring a brassy percussive score by James Newton Howard.
The music was composed by Soderburgh’s partner and friend, Cliff Martinez who’s had a stellar year so far with The Lincoln Lawyer and the surprise hit-soundtrack of the year, Drive. All three scores including this one are diverse, but all have a rythmic sense of energy that propells each film in different ways. Lincoln Lawyer was a legal thriller that had pep and excitement. Drive was a retro-80’s thiller that had an atmosphere that evoked hip-cool vibes throughout. Contagion is another animal of sorts. It’s a pulsing, monothematic score that is essentially a combination of those other scores, however where it differs is the style of music that Soderbergh likes and is more at home with stylistically. That similar style that another terrific composer Elliot Goldenthal, uses in particular which has garned him accolades. At times, the music evokes a little revisit to Martinez’ masterpiece “Solaris” in most of the material and that is a good thing. The score isn’t frightening or nor does it try to be because the movie itself is so realistic and thought provoking that it already does that for you.
The score is a tension filled affair from the start starting with “They’re Calling My Flight” where we are first introduced to Paltrow’s character who unknowingly has a virus that leads to the epidemic in the film. It’s a hip-sounding synthesizer based track with cool beats with a sinister motive musically speaking. “Placebo” is a brief and nasty sounding track which sounds like a screetching animal in pain and flows into the following track “Move Away From The Table” which continues the tension with more rhythmic beats added by a Steel Drum sounding percussion motif. “Placebo” is one of the scores major themes and really plays out to full effect in “It’s Mutated” and “Bat & Pig” (which is a major spoiler at the end of the film). “Get Off The Bus” is an Elliot Goldenthal inspired track with full tension and pounding percussion featured by drums as Kate Winslet’s character desperately tries to get a contaminated sick person to get off the bus via cell phone with terrifying results and would also pay off later on in the track “Get Us To The Front Of The Line. “Affected Cities” is another cool rthymic track much like “They’re Calling My Flight” as the deadly pandemic in the film has spread and a race for time of a cure is becoming desperate. “Bad Day To Be A Rhesus Monkey” is a pensive cue that slowly starts to build up into a Tangerine Dream inspired track with fast hip-hop sounding beats as Jennifer Ehle’s character desperately tries to find a cure with mixed results. “Merry Christmas” is a somber and somewhat eerie track that is just plain stark. The rest of the album features some nice material which include “They Didn’t Touch Me”, “Handshake” and “Contagion” which is essentially a reprise of the main thematic material from the score.
A critic who reviewed the film called this score like the one Tangerine Dream wrote for “Risky Business” and to be honest it’s not that far off, but I think that’s a wrong assestment of it. The score itself in the movie at times is so amped up that some of the tension that is already there on screen is a little worn down and the drama taken away a bit which was Soderberg’s mistake. Unfortunately that’s a style we’ve accoustomed to in his films past and present. This score does work on own merits however and on album it actually does play better in my view than in the film and Martinez’s score is stronger here than why it was featured throughout the film because it actually does play more like an album than anything else. The problem here is that it is just that so overwhelming in the film, that you might be turned off to actually getting it and enjoying it outside of the film on its own.
Contagion isn’t a horror score per se like The Rite which I reviewed recently, but it is also effective and strong in it’s own way. It’s a good score You can also say that this pretty much has solidified Martinez’ year with three solid films and one of them really does make a statement on something that could really happen.
Contagion is available from Amazon and Screen Archives (www.screenarchives.com)
1. They’re Calling My Flight
2. Chrysanthemum Complex
4. Move Away From The Table
5. The Birds Are Doing That
6. Get Off The Bus
7. 100 Doses
8. Affected Cities
9. Bad Day To Be A Rhesus Monkey
10. I’m Sick
11. Get Us To The Front Of The Line
12. Don’t Tell Anyone
14. It’s Mutated
15. Merry Christmas
16. They Didn’t Touch Me
17. There’s Nothing In There
19. Bat & Pig
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Film Music Examiner NEW YORK – NYC