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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine-Wrought Film Score from Desplat
As this score from Alexandre Desplat is neither bombastic nor feeble, the composer strings together one of 2012's best film scores. The London Symphony Orchestra hums together pieces that emphasize deep bass with a hint of string instruments that make way for unique pieces of music. Juxtaposition is stressed throughout the entire soundtrack as the overlying music creates...
Published on December 28, 2012 by RedFox

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Soundscapes from the war on terror
Zero Dark Thirty is the seventh and final score of 2012 from the workaholic composer Alexandre Desplat, whose output this year has ranged from the lush and emotional Cloclo to the quirky Moonrise Kingdom, the sweeping and playful Rise of the Guardians, and the darkly dramatic Argo, for which he received his fifth Academy Award nomination. His work on Zero Dark Thirty, as...
Published on January 24, 2013 by Jon Broxton


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine-Wrought Film Score from Desplat, December 28, 2012
By 
RedFox (Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
As this score from Alexandre Desplat is neither bombastic nor feeble, the composer strings together one of 2012's best film scores. The London Symphony Orchestra hums together pieces that emphasize deep bass with a hint of string instruments that make way for unique pieces of music. Juxtaposition is stressed throughout the entire soundtrack as the overlying music creates a dark vibe until Desplat brings in the main musical theme of the score with a wide variety of instruments that makes the score unlike any other. This musical theme, fleshed out with string and harp sounds to an extent quite electronic, but knowing that it came to life through symphonic instruments is the true beauty of it.

Desplat introduces the electro theme, which exerts a Middle-Eastern vibe, yet not as flamboyant as Desplat's 'Argo' film score, in the first track 01. Drive to Embassy. The pounding bass sets the tone for the rest of the score and midway Desplat's theme is introduced. About halfway through the track, Desplat's main theme is introduced, and this theme is evident in about two-thirds of the soundtrack's listings. In my opinion, the composer's decision to exert this theme often makes for a coherent score that does not stray off path. No outliers that disrupt the mood are present and each track feels related in a sense to the other tracks. The string and harp instruments are also used to imprint a sense of resplendence and majesty. The pounding bass would be rather flat without those aspects. Thankfully, the end result is a magnificent and organized musical piece that ranks among Desplat's best work.

This soundtrack might not be loved by people who love scores with tracks with high contrast, like a Lord of the Rings score in which there is a variety of tracks that sound quite different from each other. Desplat basically zones in on his theme and lets it rip. In a few of the tracks, evident spacing leaves minimal sound periodically but this won't detract many in my opinion from enjoying the track, as there is enough sound within the track to compensate. I absolutely love how Desplat ends the soundtrack as he begins. The beginnings of 01. Drive to Embassy and 18. Back to Base share similar characteristics which I believe plays to excellent dramatic effect.

The score in its entirety is about 52 minutes long. The average length of a track is about two and a half minutes. The longest track is 01. Flight to Embassy, coming in at 5:17. Pacing does vary between some of the tracks and the track titles reflect a plot trait within the film.

I love every track listing but some especially noteworthy pieces in my opinion:

1. Flight to Compound - sets the tone for the entire soundtrack. The theme is introduced and the palette of musical tools Desplat has at his disposal is put to use. Gives off a mysterious vibe that is also characteristic of the other listings that follow.

2. Drive to Embassy- in my opinion, this short track provides the most potent and ostentatious use of instruments by Desplat. Arouses a jaunty feeling of anxiety. Ethereal and superb.

3. Bombings - This track encompasses the most emphasis on bass than the others and in my opinion, is perfectly positioned to contrast the more ambitious 'Drive to Embassy'.

6. Northern Territories - probably the most fleshed out track of the listings and encompasses a bit of everything found within the score: pacing, sound, variety, tone, and the theme. A masterpiece within a masterpiece.

7. Seals Take Off - the most elegant use of bass and deep-sounding instruments while accompanied with fast-paced violin playing makes way for an excellent track. The occasional brass helps rise your heartbeat in this piece that is paced faster than some of the other tracks.

9. Preparation For Attack - a short track that packs a long punch, the beginning conveys a reserved retro sound that gradually transitions into harmony with harp. About as far a deviation any listing makes from the others in character.

12. Maya on Plane - a lighter-toned track that features piano playing and string that combines to make a reflective-feeling and clairvoyant piece. Very elegant and simpler than some of the other tracks.

15. Picket Lines - The highest tempo track listing that incorporates deep bass and a variety of instruments that range from
medium to low frequency sound. Raises adrenaline without letting the tempo overshadow the sound and feel out of place within the score. Primed for an intense action scene.

18. Back to Base - Ends the soundtrack on a solemn note with a mixture of string, harp, and a bit of base. Very atmospheric in its composition that allows the score to finish on a meditative note.

I highly recommend this masterwork from Desplat!!! Hopefully others will enjoy and respect this score as I do!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desplat Impresses with "Zero Dark Thirty", June 8, 2013
By 
G M. Stathis (cedar city, utah USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
I have been waiting for a work by renown French composer Alexandre Desplat that was really notable and worthy of his talent (the final Harry Potter came very close and was quite good) and with his score for Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" he has come through. My initial reaction to parts of the score was that this is something John Barry would have done, not faint praise. This is one of the best scores for a film in this broad genre in a long time. Somber and even dark, this is not a light-hearted film; Desplat's music is a solid and complimentary fit. There are serious issues with the film, far beyond the torture scenes which have been blown way out of proportion, it drags, it leaves out or minimizes essential elements of the story while over-selling others and the list goes on, but the score is very, very good. Desplat mixes Middle Eastern motifs without overdoing it and produces a musical background that is tense and at times ominous. The themes are subtle, but he uses several motifs and themes to great effect and gives us a score that works very well on screen and on the soundtrack recording; it is a score that continues to resonate in the memory long after the film is over (note especially "SEALs Take Off") which is one of the signs of a successful score, and that is exactly what this is. Notable performance by the London Symphony Orchestra with solid production values by Sony, but the packaging is just barely adequate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark is the key word, May 16, 2013
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This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
This is one of the 'darkest' movie soundtracks I've heard. Alexandre's music carry's over to the movies dark theme and character.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great service, great soundtrack, October 30, 2013
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This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
Fast and efficient service and good price. Am big Desplat fan and he does not disappoint with ZERO DARK THIRT. Will no doubt be ordering again. Cheers
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, October 19, 2013
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The entire album is very good. Mr. Desplat is a very talented composer and the music is a perfect match for the film. The type of soundtrack that replays in your mind.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Soundscapes from the war on terror, January 24, 2013
By 
Jon Broxton (Thousand Oaks, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
Zero Dark Thirty is the seventh and final score of 2012 from the workaholic composer Alexandre Desplat, whose output this year has ranged from the lush and emotional Cloclo to the quirky Moonrise Kingdom, the sweeping and playful Rise of the Guardians, and the darkly dramatic Argo, for which he received his fifth Academy Award nomination. His work on Zero Dark Thirty, as one would expect, is most closely aligned with his work on Argo, making use of subtle Middle Eastern tones as part of its orchestral makeup, but its overall demeanor is less flashy and less crowd-pleasing than that of Argo, matching the tone and style taken by the film's director, Kathryn Bigelow, in the movie itself.

The film tells the painstakingly detailed and (allegedly) true story of the way the United States military tracked down Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader responsible for masterminding the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York in 2001, who was eventually killed by elite US special forces during a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. It stars Jessica Chastain in the lead role as Maya, an ambitious CIA analyst whose work attempting to locate and capture Bin Laden included participating in the `enhanced interrogation' of prisoners in US custody, traveling across the Middle East talking to witnesses, coercing senior military officials into giving her more help and support in her task, before eventually becoming personally involved in the final raid. Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Jennifer Ehle, James Gandolfini amd Kyle Chandler appear in recurring supporting roles, and the film is technically superb, capturing the minutiae of life in the CIA with a vivid eye for visual detail via an exciting, if tech-speak heavy script.

None of this has anything to do with the impact of the music, though, which for the most part is good. Alexandre Desplat's score is more textural and color-palette based than it is thematic, and although the orchestra is present throughout, it is often augmented, and occasionally surpassed, by the heavy use of electronic and sampled percussion, and ethnic woodwind instruments from the region. There is a recurring main theme - a moody ascending five note motif - which first appears in "Seals Take Off". It reappears later in a different, more positive key in "Preparations for Attack", and makes an appearance on ethnic woodwinds in "Dead End", before bringing the album back to a close in the decidedly downbeat and non-celebratory "Back to Base", which ends the proceedings on a moment of introspection. However, beyond this short recurring identifier, most of Desplat's score relies on textures and instrumental timbres to tell its story.

The main action sequences are scattered around the soundtrack album; "Flight to Compound", which opens the score, has a shadowy staccato rhythmic core which oscillates between strings and brass, creating a sense of urgency and expectancy. A punchy one-note motif for French horns and the addition of a mysterious-sounding woodwind effect during the cue's second half gives the listener a little respite from the tension, but the overall effect is one of steely determination and breathless anticipation rather than edge-of-seat thrills. The aforementioned "Seals Take Off" is one of the action cues which stands out greatly in the film itself, stating the main theme on low, patriotic horns and underpinning it with the timpani rhythms from Birth, and then bringing in an exciting string ostinato and fat brass blasts to drive the sequence along.

Elsewhere, the ethnic flutes are prominent in cues such as "Drive to Embassy", "Ammar", the fascinating "Northern Territories", and the mournful "Balawi", enlivening the score somewhat with some regional specificity, but these are surrounded by low-key soundscape cues like "Bombings", "Monkeys" and "Area 51", which are interesting from a technical point of view, provide little in terms of memorable musical content for the more casual listener to take away. The use of ethnic flutes, and other such instruments, is often decried as being a cliché, but in scores like these you have to take regional specificity into account when trying to recapture the musical heritage of a particular place on Earth, and Desplat manages to tread this fine line of making the music redolent of a place, without it being overbearing or overwhelming to those who find such instrumental ideas unpalatable.

A few moments of hesitant warmth do creep in here and there; "21 Days" has a lighter pizzicato element which allows it to stand out significantly from the rest of the score, and "Maya on Plane" has a more intimate acoustic guitar sequence that attempts to capture the sense of relief and closure felt by the lead character once her life's work - literally, her life's work - has been completed. The pizzicato element returns towards the end of the score, playing in a frantic duet with skittery piano chords and a synth pulse in the unusual but effective "Picket Lines". There's a sound effect in this cue which baffles me as it sounds like the sampled sound of a snorting bull!

For the most part, though, Zero Dark Thirty is not a flamboyant score, and although this work is much more contemporary in style and tone than some of Desplat's other, more classically-inclined works, listeners who never warmed to Desplat's precise style will likely find themselves left out in the cold here too. But, through it all, this is still a Desplat score through and through - there are numerous moments where his personal style comes to the fore, and they are littered through the score, in the instrumental phrasings, in the use of a bass synth pulse in many cues, and in its textural allusions to scores like Argo and Syriana, so listeners who do enjoy hearing Desplat's personal stylistics in markedly different settings may enjoy the nuances.

One thing also worth mentioning, however, is the almost complete lack of heroism in Desplat's music; it accompanies the research, search, and eventual attack on Bin Laden's compound with a sense of detached professionalism, as if acknowledging that this is dirty business that has to be done, but not celebrated. For that level of restraint, I applaud the French composer - his taste and decorum in presenting his music in this way is commendable, even if it lessens the impact of the score on CD. Zero Dark Thirty is well composed, interesting, and complex, but not one which will appeal to the masses - it's lack of hung-ho patriotism, while wholly appropriate in context, may cause it to be overlooked by fans of the genre who would otherwise be drawn to music of this type.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the music highlights the opacity and complexity of modern warfare, December 30, 2014
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This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
A superb blend of computer-generated sound and the sound of the most unusual instruments that you have never heard and never heard of before.
Takes you through a strange emotional journey in a controlled build-up of tension starting with very low frequency deep notes at the beginning to that gives a intuitive hint of the complexities of war and deadly cerebral or physical battles in modern warfare....
You gotta hear it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As I watched this film for the first time I ..., August 8, 2014
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As I watched this film for the first time I was struck by how tonally rich and powerful the soundtrack is - capturing the mood and importance of the story and drawing the viewer "in". This is a soundtrack work that has numerous quality tracks - as opposed to some soundtracks that have only one or two decent pieces and the rest is "filler". Bravo Alexandre Desplat and The London Symphony!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great score!!!, July 11, 2014
By 
Alejandro Vargas-Lugo (San Antonio, TX, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
Moody, dark, somber, dramatic...An excellent score for an excellent film. Desplat's a-la John Barry approach is just perfect and sets the atmosphere for this amazing real-life drama. Being a John Barry fan myself I found the similarities between both composers fascinating, Desplat might as well may have written this score an an homage to Barry himself, or maybe not, in any case, this soundtrack it is the perfect example of an extremely talented composer digging deep into the story and characters to let them "speak" to us, through his music and imagination.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the real story of brains and guts, April 5, 2014
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This review is from: Zero Dark Thirty (Audio CD)
One of the best follow the dots....microscopic dots... on the mission to bring the evil leader of mass murder and terror to a fitting end..
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Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty by Alexandre Desplat (Audio CD - 2012)
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