Here is a movie that surprised me by how good it is. The Book of Eli is a film set in a dusty post-apocalyptic landscape and tells the story of a lone man who has memories of what it was like long ago before the war. He travels across the wasteland that is the United States carrying a book that only he can touch and is believed to contain the secret to saving humanity. It is a thought-provoking film bathed in style, drenched in dust, and punctuated with bloody violence. It is also accompanied by a score that is not what I would have expected, yet works marvelously with and without the film.
The score is an intriguing slice of post-apocalyptic ambiance delivered with a blend of the organic and the electronic. The end result is a score that is not likely to induce adrenaline charged memories of the wild action sequences so much as it is likely to become the soundtrack to dust-storm filled nightmares of a future where hope is but an ember and life is relegated to violent towns or lonely highway travel. You could say it is something to sit back on a lazy afternoon with, due to the ambient nature, but that would be doing the nightmare a disservice.
Here is how this should be enjoyed: put the disk in your player or load up the MP3's, wait until dark, draw the shade, put on your favorite pair of headphones, extinguish the light, sit back, press play. Once the opening track, "Panoramic," begins to play, you have two options. First option is to just let it wash over you, experience it for what it is on its terms, there is no need to think about anything else. The second option is to use the downer ambiance to contemplate the future, think about where we are and meditate on the possibilities. Both options work, although I am more intrigued by the first one, which could lead to some interesting mind warps, kind of like sensory deprivation.
The score was composed by Atticus Ross. I recall seeing his name on the screen as I watched the opening of the film (and "Panoramic" was playing). I was curious as, while it was still early, I liked what I heard. Then I saw his name and was like: "Who?" I had never heard of Atticus Ross before. Ross, it turns out, is a rather prolific musician who has not been involved in much scoring. His highest profile work came while working with Trent Reznor on Nine Inch Nails material. He met the Hughes Brothers (directors of The Book of Eli) on the short lived television show Touching Evil (starring Burn Notices Jeffrey Donovan), where he wrote the show's score. he also worked on a Albert Hughes segment of New York, I Love You. However, for all intents and purposes, The Book of Eli is his first foray into a full-blown score. The result is promising.
Ross marries the organic sounds of stringed instruments with the electronic synth to create a soundstage that does immediately sound like it would belong to an action film. Fortunately, The Book of Eli is an action film that happens to have some bigger thoughts and ideas in its head. It has a meditative quality to it that is focused on the warrior monk Eli, played with quiet determination and intelligence by Denzel Washington. The underlying intelligence feeds into Ross' score. It is not big and bombastic, even during the big action sequences, rather it stays the course, working perfectly for the scene yet never falling prey to the cliche.
All of this said, there are a couple of filler-style tracks on the album. These include: "The Convoy" and "Gattling." There is also "Solara Violated," which has promise but seems to have cut off at the knees before becoming very interesting.
On the other side of the coin, there are some very good tracks including: "The Journey," "The Passenger," and "The Purpose." The best track is the opening one, "Panoramic." That is simply a fantastic piece of work that opens the film beautifully and also plays on its own.
Bottomline. The movie is a fantastic surprise, much stronger than I am used to so early in the year. It's score nearly matches it. Atticus Ross has composed a fine piece of work for the film that stands on its own as strong composition while also avoiding the standard styles you would expect for the genre. This is one you will want to give some time to.
03 The Journey
05 The Convoy
06 Solara Violated
09 Meant To Be Shared
10 The Passenger
11 Den Of Vice
13 Blind Faith
14 Convoy Destruct
16 Carnegie's Demise
17 The Purpose