Film Score Friday: ‘In Time’ by Craig Armstrong

Craig Armstrong is one of those interesting composers that I have always really liked. He made a big splash in the late 90s with Romeo + Juliet, and has since been consistently solid in a long line of work. I have been longing for him to venture back into the action/suspense movie scoring business for a few years now. So it is with great excitement I get to review his latest release, the score for In Time.

Early in the process of composing this music Armstrong had conversations with the film’s director, Andrew Niccol, that gave direction to the music. They wanted to think of the kind of music people would be listening to in the “not to distant future”, deciding that there would be a fusion of types. This lead to the decision to merge classical, electronic and eastern influences together to give the film it’s sound.

It is very clear from the first track on where this music was inspired from, and I venture to guess that was exactly the point. The music doesn’t shy away from it’s parts, it is not trying to be subtle it is trying to be good, and for the most part I think it generally succeeds. Craig Armstrong’s style fits perfectly for a serious film score that fuses together different elements and makes something completely original from it.

The first thing I noticed on the album is that their are at least three versions of the In Time theme on the disc. In my mind this can only mean one of two things, either the theme is so awesome that they decided to put in a couple variations on it to satisfy an assumed theme hungry fan base, or the film score suffers from too few other themes and the music will play very one note as a listening experience.

In the end, much like the influences of the score, the ultimate answer is a merger of the two. The main theme is  amongst the best music on the album, and all three versions are unique enough to live as separate tracks. My personal favorite is the choral version, it has the best overall flow as a track and is already in heavy play on my iPod.

On the other hand, the score does suffer from to small of a range. Almost every track sounds like each other, with a few exceptions for action beats and chase scenes. I rarely knock a score to hard for not having a huge variety of sound, because usually that is dictated by elements outside of the composer’s control. I am just particularly perplexed with this score because I hear so much potential in it. This really could be a classier, more sophisticated Matrix score, yet it kind of just settles in on itself before it realizes something truly epic.

That is a tough bit of criticism to levy onto a score like this, because again that is not always up to the composer. I will say that there are elements in this score that are some of the best bits of music I have heard all year. The music is contemplative and not at all what I was expecting after watching the trailers for the movie itself. Kudos on a taking a more soft approach for a sci-fi actioner.

Three Favorite Tracks:

Mother Times Out by Craig Armstrong – The one track amonst my favorites that isn’t just a variation on the In Time theme. I really love how this track builds itself up to some really exciting music at the end. This is one of those tracks that fires a ton of neurons in the brain and gets me thinking about all sorts of epic things. It would also not surprise me to hear the back end of this track end up in a few trailers over the next couple of years.

In Time Choral Theme by Craig Armstrong – The Choral version of the main theme is easily my favorite. It has the most striking fusion of elements and really plays up the electronic aspect of the music well. Also the main driving vocal is just perfect and provides the most pure and enjoyable interpretation on the main theme. This track is just a melting pot of musical influences and it comes together really well.

In Time Theme (Orchestral) by Craig Armstrong – For the first 30 seconds of this track I always think I am listening to something by Moby, I dunno what it is but that heavy layer of orchestra over sounds we have heard mostly electronic elsewhere in the score is just mesmerizing. Where the choral version had a vocal through line, this track has a piano take you through the theme, and I am a sucker for a good piano based theme!

Least Favorite Track:

In Time Main Theme by Craig Armstrong – Really? I am putting yet another variation of the main them I like so much on my least favorite tracks list? A fair question to ask at6 this point, but one easily answered. This track is essentially the runt of the litter, everything done in this track is done elsewhere, better and longer. I don’t hate it, in fact I considered this amongst my favorite tracks, until I got to the end and discovered the other main theme versions. My main reason for putting this here is that as a track I have no real reason to listen to it much, a victim of it’s more fleshed out sibling tracks.

At the end of the day I really like the album for what it is, but I can’t shake the thoughts of what it could have been. The multiple music styles fusion works really well here, and I hope to be hearing Mr. Armstrong doing more work like this in the future. Contemplative sci-fi is a far more interesting canvas than quirky ensemble rom-coms or biopics, Craig, just sayin’.

Final Score for In Time

3.5 out of 5

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