Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Soundtrack Suggestion: Zero Dark Thirty - Alexandre Desplat

Zero Dark Thirty 
by Alexandre Desplat

I recall seeing this movie with my partner one weekend and at the very opening scene of the movie, I was riveted and telling myself, "I have to find this soundtrack!"  There's a lot to love about a soundtrack that opens with such an influential impact, and this soundtrack thankfully offers a lot of good game-friendly gems. The soundtrack was composed for the film about the elite team of intelligence and military operatives who devoted so much time of their lives in accomplishing one single goal:  to locate, and assassinate Osama bin Laden.  Now, while there may be varying opinions on whether or not such an action was appropriate, as well as whether or not making a movie about such an operation was appropriate, I'm not here to discuss those ideas and opinions.  I'm just here to say whether or not I feel the soundtrack to the movie is worth using in your games.

The soundtrack opens with Flight To Compound (Track 01) which embraces the dark subject matter with a foreboding constant beat.  Some mind find it reminiscent to how the Lord of the Rings score approached Helm's Deep, while others might feel the heavy bass almost dances around the idea of something oppressively vicious.  I personally felt it was a great piece to open a game session with, but that is more because I do enjoy having an ominous mood growing in the opening scenes of a game.  Drive to Embassy (Track 02) injects the initial Middle-Eastern vibe to the tracks, and the juxtaposition of the piano with the horns produces an ethereal touch that is wrapped in a hint of anxiety.  When Bombings (Track 03) opens, the mood immediately shifts from anxious to tragic, with what sounds like a rhaita, but I'm not quite certain.   This early into the soundtrack, however, I can already share how the individual pieces are wonderfully loop-friendly and not too tied into sudden shifts of mood and events the way other soundtracks are, making this a flexible score to add to one's games.  Monkeys (Track 05) carries the Middle-Eastern vibe once again, but feels a bit more modern than the earlier pieces.  The track does build to a heavy weight that suggests an unexpected revelation.  Northern Territories (Track 06) starts slow and mysterious, but does shift into a build of tension and action.  In some ways, this track captures the extreme moods of the whole soundtrack, and can act like a nice lietmotif.  Seals Take Off (Track 07) introduces a harsher new identity to the music as it adds what can only be called the leitmotif that shall now represent the military forces entering the scene.  There's an action-expected growth to the mood of the music, slightly heroic, slightly uncertain which can be a great piece for any scenes building towards war.  Violins mix with brass to create a very effective piece.  21 Days (Track 08) is your montage sequence track, which while repetitive works to its favor in creating a growing sense of impatience and anticipation.  I love how the track ends in a softer, silent note.  Dramatic rather than anti-climactic.  Dead End (Track 11) opens with despair and frustration, but as the music builds we return to a moment of hope and action.  This, however, is overshadowed easily by the approach of Maya On Plane (Track 12) which starts with a slow reflective mix of strings that slowly invites the piano to punctuate the track with hope and relief.  As you approach the two minute mark, the track transforms into an ethereal moment of satisfaction and joy, but it never leaves reality, and sinks back to the ground at the two-thirty five mark.  An excellent piece and definitely one of my favorites of the album.   Picket Lines (Track 15)  is the building tide of tension with strings plucked with a growing ferocity that one feels the presence of looming danger.  When the low bass notes hit, there's no denying the emotional need to feel like you need to prepare yourself for a threat.  The track reminds me of combination of Psycho's main theme, mixed with Jaws and Inception.  Truly remarkable without being overpowering.

The soundtrack as a whole is expertly crafted, and while some might be surprised to not find more combat-favoring moments in this soundtrack, there's no denying that this will find much use in many games out there. Clocking at around 53 minutes, this eighteen track soundtrack is worth a purchase.

Zero Dark Thirty OST track suggestions:
WTF moment: None
Introspective/calm moment: Drive to Embassy (Track 02), Balawi (Track 10), Dead End (Track 11), Maya On Plane (Track 12)
Tense/mystery moment: Flight to Compound (Track 01), Ammar (Track 04), Preparation for Attack (Track 09), Tracking Calls (Track 14), Towers (Track 16)
Combat music: Picket Lines (Track 15), Chopper (Track 17)
Hopeful moment: Seals Take Off (Track 07), 21 Days (Track 08), Area 51 (Track 13)
Drama/sad moment: Northern Territories (Track 06), Back to Base (Track 18)

Best Used In: Modern games and science-fiction games would probably benefit from this more than others.  While the music is evocative enough to work in other genres, the presence of electronic moments might turn off some groups.  But so long as the game is moody and dark, this soundtrack is sure to add a dash of tension into it.  The games need not even be military oriented, which surprised me how the soundtrack does not slip into what I call "American Military Uplifting Moments" which many Michael Bay movies tend to have.

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