Peppermint is a 2018 American vigilante action film directed by Pierre Morel and stars Jennifer Garner who plays Riley North, a woman who sets out on a path of revenge after her family is gunned down in a drive-by shooting. The score for Peppermint was composed by Simon Franglen.
Simon Franglen is a Grammy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated composer and producer. He received a Grammy Award for Record of the Year as producer of “My Heart Will Go On” from James Cameron’s “Titanic,” and received Golden Globe, Grammy Award and World Soundtrack Award nominations for his work on Cameron’s “Avatar.” His recent work includes composing music for two films with Terrence Malick, including his stunning “Voyage of Time,” multiple projects with Jean-Jacques Annaud and Antoine Fuqua, including “The Magnificent Seven” and working with Pink Floyd, producing 3D mixes for “Their Mortal Remains” which was recently experienced by 400,000 people in London.
The first thing that comes to mind when I listen to the soundtrack for Peppermint is…emotion. Raw, visceral emotion bleeds out of this score and it’s not surprising given what the plot is about. Franglen has dutifully assembled a collection of strings and electronic instruments to create a score filled with tension, angst and a heavy dose of brooding (brought to glorious fruition by the cello section of the orchestra).
One track that stands out in particular is ‘Drive By Shooting.’ Just from the title you can guess that this will have some particularly dark musical moments, but I’m impressed with how Franglen brought the tension out in this piece. In the first sixty seconds, you are literally put on edge by a screeching, grinding sound which is then replaced by a misleading cello melody. I say misleading because I feel it’s designed to put the audience at ease before the shooting happens, to make the event more shocking.
Another track I want to highlight is ‘Justice for the Judge.’ This piece is brought to life with synthesizers and strings which climax in a moment of pure angst before abruptly (and tellingly) cutting off.
These strings are what help to make the score of Peppermint special, in my opinion. With only the synthesizer portion of the soundtrack, you have a generic score that’s been heard in hundreds of action films over the last several decades (going back at least to the 1980s when synthesized music became a serious ‘thing’ in the film industry). But Franglen doesn’t stick to just synthesizers, no, he mixes them in with strings both high and low (there is also a piano and possibly some woodwinds mixed in but I’ve yet to hear any brass in the soundtrack). It’s an effective combination to be sure; I’m not against wholly electronic film scores but there is something to be said for old-fashioned instruments being included.
There are also moments where the score takes a moment to breathe and moves in a sentimental direction. The clearest case in point is the track ‘You Have to Wake up Now.’ Unlike many of the pieces in this soundtrack, this one doesn’t start with a bass line laid down by the synthesizer (though it does appear about halfway through). Instead, the audience is treated to a soft piano melody mixed in with the strings. Given the rawness of most of the score prior to this moment, it’s refreshing to hear something so light, even if the moment is brief (about sixty seconds in length).
I know Peppermint has received mixed reviews, but I urge you to give the soundtrack a chance, there are some truly good moments in it. If it has one weakness it’s that it does rely a little too much on the synthesizer, but as I said, this is compensated for somewhat by the presence of the strings and the piano.
Let me know what you think of the soundtrack to Peppermint (or the film itself) in the comments below and have a great day!
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