Soundtrack Review: "Argo"

Feb 9, 2013

After five Academy Award nominations, composer Alexandre Desplat is one of the busiest musicians in Hollywood today. In 2012 alone, he scored six features and one short film, scoring another nomination this year for his work on Ben Affleck’s award-winning film, “Argo.”

The movie takes place in 1979, as a CIA agent enlists talent from Hollywood to help Americans escape from the Canadian Embassy in Tehran during the hostage crisis. Desplat’s score heavily incorporates Middle-Eastern melodies and instrumentation such as the stringed oud. It opens with a haunting drone and traditional melody, somewhat reminiscent of Peter Gabriel’s work on “The Last Temptation of Christ.” But just when you think the score is all World Music, a few tracks in there’s “The Mission,” a stirring American melody in the manner of John Williams, that still manages to close with a Middle Eastern flair. It’s a nice juxtaposition of the two cultures in one cue.

Desplat underscores what was undeniably a tense situation--a genius plan that could go horribly wrong any moment--with what sounds like both traditional and electronic percussion. Wordless vocals also add to the colorful score.

The album concludes with a reprise of the American theme by Desplat, and finally a beautiful, near a capella lullaby by the Chilean group Familion called “Hace Tuto Guagua.”

I think “Argo” would be especially appealing to fans of World Music, and once again illustrates the musical and dramatic range of Desplat, who also “scored” this year with great work on “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Rise of the Guardians.”