Film Score Friday: ‘Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy’ by Alberto Iglesias

Alberto Iglesias is a fantastic composer. He has two Oscar nominations under his belt, and now that he is getting higher profile work it wont be long before this Spanish composer gets a win. His most recent score is for the spy drama Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, starring a who’s who of the best British actors working today.

The music for a thriller like this is essential in selling the mood and tension. A great score can be all the difference a movie like this needs to really breakout. So it is with great excitement that I take a listen to the Iglesias’ music, knowing that if he nails it this could be one of the best scores of the year.

My first reaction to this score is that it’s simple, piano heavy tones are perfect for a hard boiled spy thriller. I appreciate the minimalist approach which really heightens the moments of suspense in the score. The music is also not afraid to get big and exciting, most notably on the titular final track. There is a great since of intrigue in this music, really capturing the vibe you what to hear in a movie such as this.

Unfortunately that is also my biggest gripe with the score as a whole. It strikes a really wonderful tone, but it so intent on keeping it up that it never really gets to have a strong variety of sound. I am sure the small range of variation is a creative decision for the betterment of the film, but on the CD it just makes for one long series of the same track over and over. Again, I do really like it, but I can pare this whole soundtrack down to one or two tracks and feel like I am not missing out on anything.

Aside from that, like I had previously mentioned, I do really like the music on the whole. It’s has a slow, patient way about it that makes for really wonderful music to listen to while you work. Probably an odd point to give credit to this music, but I think that is what a CD like this is best suited for. The perfect blend of intrigue and suspense, played subtly enough that it doesn’t distract.

I am very eager to hear it in context of the film, because I suspect everything I like about the music will be heightened and it’s few faults minimized. I do also want to heap a little more credit to the CD presentation itself. Thank you for not giving overly spoilerific track titles. As some one who appreciates film music and is going to hear this before I see the movie, I love that glancing over to iTunes doesn’t ruin the movie for me. Kudos on that one.

Three Favorite Tracks:

George Smiley by Alberto Iglesias – This is one of the two tracks that absolutely encapsulates the score for me. The theme for the main character in the film, George Smiley, this track exudes all the pulpy goodness one hopes for in a film like this. It just meanders on in a couple different directions, but always in calculated sort of way, coming back to the noir inspired theme. An apt musical representation of a man hunting down Soviet spys.

Witchcraft by Alberto Iglesias – There is some absolutely wonderful guitar work that kicks off this track. It sort of plays quite as it is pushing forward and really ramping up the suspense. It is a sound that is generally not heard on the rest of the score and in on an album with so little variation from track to track, it is nice to hear something fresh drive the music.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by Alberto Iglesias – The second of the two tracks that define this score, this titular tune is probably my favorite of the bunch. It begins soft and and takes it’s time before it rushes into a mad dash of excitement. It is likely that exciting is probably not the best word to use to describe it, but I have used suspense a little to often in this review thus far. The music manages to find the balance line between thrilling music and the scores previous slower pace. The score is so much more active here, yet it never feels like it doesn’t belong with what has come before.

Least Favorite Track:

Karla by Alberto Iglesias – Karla is the main bad guy in the books this story is based on. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is, in fact, based on the first book in the Quest for Karla trilogy. So this track sits as my least favorite mostly due to disappointment. The main theme for the movie and it’s main character are really good, so it sucks that this theme is so slight. I have not read the book nor seen the movie so perhaps this plays really well in context. I can’t judge, though, based on maybe. On this album, Karla is just underwhelming.

In the end, this is a very competent score that likely matches it’s film very well. However, as an album there just isn’t enough variation for me to really love it. I might very well end up listening to this album a lot as background music, and the first and last tracks will find a home in my iTunes rotation. So it won’t get horrible marks, just rather average ones.

Final Score for Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy:

3.0 out of 5

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