127 Hours: the one where James Franco cuts his arm off. Inevitably that’s what Danny Boyle’s latest film will be remembered for, even though it’s packed full of other stuff (erm, him walking to the canyon, him getting stuck, him getting rescued). In all seriousness, though, it’s a much better film than that for many reasons which I won’t go into here (spoilers aplenty in our recent review if you need them), most of all the use of music.
Danny Boyle’s teamed up with A. R. Rahman once again, the Oscar/Golden Globe/Bafta-winning composer behind a million Bollywood movies, Slumdog Millionaire and, er, Couples Retreat. And the odd Dido track aside, the latter’s created an intensely visceral and memorable soundtrack. Chucking in Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’ for a scene depicting his third morning in captivity was a nice touch, and of course Sigur Ros’ ‘Festival’ as the film reaches its climax is sublime.
But it’s his own passages of post rock in the score that really raise your heart rate and have you clutching the seat like it’s the tip of a rock you’re hanging from; both Franco’s initial entrapment and the film’s bloody climax are soundtracked by the most unnerving, relentless and terrible noises, fragments of guitar chord progression repeated again and again and again at increasing volumes until you’re about to run out of the cinema screaming.
It’s reminiscent of the Godspeed You! Black Emperor track ‘East Hastings’ at the start of another Danny Boyle classic 28 Days Later and it’s the most perfect marriage of music and imagery I’ve seen in some time. Put it this way, you wouldn’t be weeping into your popcorn if he was slicing his ulnar nerve with a blunt climbing tool to the strains of The Wombats.
What are your favourite uses of music in movies? We’re not talking best soundtracks, rather times when the audio and the visual combine to devasting effect. The Black Swan club scene is a recent example which sees The Chemical Brothers dice up Tchaikovsky into fragments for one of the only authentic reconstructions of a night pilled up clubbing, but what are your top picks?