Soundtrack Review: Red Sparrow (2018)

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Red Sparrow is an American spy thriller film directed by Francis Lawrence and based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews. The film tells the story of a Russian intelligence officer, Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), who is sent to make contact with a CIA agent and possible mole. The film also stars Joel Edgerton, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons. It released to theaters on March 2nd, 2018.

The score for Red Sparrow was composed by James Newton Howard, one of the film industry’s most versatile and honored composers, with a career spanning over thirty years and encompassing more than 130 film and television projects. His myriad film credits include the Oscar®-nominated scores for Defiance, Michael Clayton, The Village, The Fugitive, The Prince of Tides, and My Best Friend’s Wedding, as well as Oscar® nominated songs for Junior and One Fine Day. Howard also received Golden Globe nominations for his scores for Peter Jackson’s blockbuster remake of King Kong and Defiance, as well as the aforementioned songs.

James Newton Howard’s score for Red Sparrow is, in a word, beautiful. Howard’s scores have always been among my favorites, but this one might just be one of his best. For a start, the score begins with a proper overture which came as a very pleasant surprise to me. Overtures in film music are typically, in my experience, associated with the golden age of cinema, when many films contained an overture and an intermission like a stage play or an opera. And like those overtures, Howard’s overture sets the tone for the entire soundtrack: it’s a haunting string melody, mixed with woodwinds, that gently draws you into itself until you’re lost in the rising and falling sounds. Appropriately enough, there are faint overtones of Russian-styled music in the melody, which makes sense given where the film is set. However, this sound does not dominate the overture, it is a hint of “Russian-ness” and nothing more.

Most of the score follows the lyrical example of the overture, especially the last track before the end titles which is listed as “Didn’t I Do Well.” This last piece is more upbeat than the overture and actually put me in mind of a ballet number, which may be deliberate since Jennifer Lawrence’s character is *minor spoiler* a former ballerina. I say it reminds me of ballet because the leaps and quick changes in the melody are reminiscent of the steps a ballet dancer takes.

Red-Sparrow

However, some of the tracks in the score depart from the style featured in the overture and “Didn’t I Do Well” and lean closer to a more modern feel, with electronic sounds and a faster paced, more “jagged” melody. Examples of this include “Take Off Your Dress” and “The Steam Room.” The latter especially could be considered the most “violent” sounding piece in the entire soundtrack (I have my theories as to why but I’ll need to see the film to know for certain) but I enjoyed listening to it because it stood in marked contrast to the other pieces surrounding it in the score.

In conclusion, Howard’s score for Red Sparrow is a gorgeous listening experience and I can already tell it will be the highlight of the film (even if the rest of the film disappoints, which I hope it doesn’t). I think you will definitely enjoy it.

Let me know what you thought of Red Sparrow’s soundtrack in the comments below. 🙂

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See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

My thoughts on: Red Sparrow (2018)

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One thought on “Soundtrack Review: Red Sparrow (2018)

  1. Pingback: My thoughts on: Red Sparrow (2018) | Film Music Central

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