Argo Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the film score Argo by Alexandre Desplat.
At a glance:
Geek Score: 92.5
Total Minutes Of Excellence: 35.5
Album Excellence: 65%
In 1979, Iranian activists stormed the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran. More than 50 of the embassy staff are taken as hostages. 6 people managed to escape the embassy and USA is trying to rescue them by setting up a fake movie and giving them fake credentials as Canadian moviemakers for a sci-fi film. The Ben Affleck directed movie Argo takes on that scenario to great success. It has been critically acclaimed for direction and acting, but criticized for leaving more than a few important facts out, particularly the Canadian efforts during that time. The score is composed by Alxeandre Desplat and it was nominated for the 2012 Academy Award for best score, but didn’t win.
I’ve seen some of the film and there appears to be very little score and if there was, it must have been very subtle. The score on album however is 59 minutes long, so there’s plenty of material. The title cue ‘Argo’ is a tense cue, using Iranian instruments and music style. It’s not befor 52 seconds in that it adds some American flair with a dark synth pad as the underscore. At 2:32 there’s a Iranian rhythm section which is very good. The cue is a bit low key, but adds some percussion near the end and the cue ends on a heavy note. This is a good opener and hopefully a sign of what we can expect from this score. For once I’d like a score to be set in the times and place, which in this case is late 70s/early 80s and in Iran. ‘A Spy In Tehran’ is definitely not low-key as the tempo has increased a lot from the opening cue. It’s a good change of pace and it still use Iranian instruments and has that authentic sound even though it does have a few moments where modern electronica music steps into the mix. At 2:40 it goes back to what the original cue was, with a more low-key Iranian presence, but there’s some good use of vocal that adds to the music.
this music excites me, and it’s strange because it didn’t do it for me in 2012. ‘Scent Of Death’ is again playing on the Iranian theme and adding a lot of vocal and there’s a sort of one note “nana” sound used as a percussion. Suddenly it breaks into American patriotism, heroism and greatism with ‘The Mission’ that sounds like your typical Hollywood blockbuster production as a few men saves the earth from impending disaster. Doesn’t matter, because it sounds great. I don’t think I have heard Desplat in this mode, at least not so bold. The music gets more interesting with ‘Hotel Messages’. Desplat continues to use the human voice as instrument. There’s a voice working in tandem with the percussion track. I think it’s pretty great and very inventive.
The score is definitely not in chronological order as it’s happening in the film, but that doesn’t matter as I’m sure it was done for a better listening experience. ‘Held Up By The Guards’ is the first cue with a motif I can remember. It does so by mixing Western music and Iranian music. Still, it’s one of the less interesting cues on the score. ‘The Business Card’ is an odd-named cue because it’s the best action cue so far. Really great percussion and rhythm keeps it going. ‘Breaking Through The Gates’ makes much more sense as this must be the scene where hundreds, maybe thousands or angry Iranians break down the gate and storms the embassy. Strangely I can only remember yelling in that scene and no music at all. Could the film mix be so low that the yelling is totally overshadowing the music? Strange. The music on album is sound though and very exciting. It’s a bit zany as well adding the breathing and sounds of a male as heard in ‘Hotel Messages’. ‘Drive To the Airport’ is another exciting action cue.
The ending starts with a low-key cue called ‘Bazaar’ and there’s not much happening here to be honest. It’s more of a mood setting cue, but what’s it setting up? Perhaps it was placed wrongly in the track list. I mean the score is already over and we should be done with mood setting music. ‘Cleared Iranian Airspace’ starts very slow, but I like the theme. It’s basically a number of long synth pads creating nice music with some Iranian instrument on top (string or woodwind?). This is quite good but it soon goes into a very nice piano motif, but I know I’ve heard this before somewhere. Maybe it’s a fraction of a memory when I heard Argo two years ago? Who knows, but it feels pastiche and it probably isn’t. It ends with that amazing patriot theme heard in ‘The Mission’, but what’s up with the bass? It’s so deep that it practically shaking my headphones. It’s not annoying though, just an observation. For me this is the best cue on the score.
Well, Argo has made a fool out of me, that’s for sure. I was out of my mind to dislike it back in 2012 when it came out. It’s quite brilliant at times and a score that is very different from most scores that are created mainly due to it’s brilliant use of vocals and the Iranian music. Well now I’m a believer and and this music has got me all excited so I think I’ll go see the rest of the movie now.
2. A Spy In Tehran
3. Scent Of Death
4. The Mission *
5. Hotel Messages
7. The Business Card
8. Breaking Through The Gates *
10. The Six Are Missing
12. Drive To The Airport
16. Cleared Iranian Airspace *