TRUTH – Brian Tyler
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Truth is a film about journalistic integrity and ethics, which looks specifically at the 2004 ‘Killian documents controversy’ which essentially ended the careers of veteran CBS news producer Mary Mapes and the well-respected news anchor and journalist Dan Rather. In the lead up to the 2004 US presidential election Mapes and Rather presented a report on the news magazine show 60 Minutes containing some damning allegations about then-president George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard in the 1970s. However, following the airing of the show, it was revealed that the documents Mapes and Rather relied upon as the basis for the report had been entirely fabricated – ostensibly to cripple Bush’s re-election campaign – and the resulting scandal was intensely damaging to CBS, who were accused of poor journalistic standards and incomplete fact-checking. The film was directed by James Vanderbilt, and has an all-star cast, including Robert Redford as Rather, Cate Blanchett as Mapes, and Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, and Bruce Greenwood in supporting roles.
The score for Truth is by Brian Tyler, who is taking a well-earned break from writing music for Marvel super heroes and Fast & Furious car chases. As much as I truly enjoy his action, fantasy and sci-fi scores, I have always felt that Tyler was under-rated as a straight dramatic composer, and that he doesn’t get enough opportunities to showcase this side of his musical personality. His scores for films like Partition, The Killing Room, and Standing Up, are vastly different from the ones he writes for Thor and Iron Man, giving him the chance to blend beautiful romantic and dramatic themes with very creative and unusual approaches in terms of instrumentation. Although Truth doesn’t really go in for especially unusual instrumental choices – it relies instead on a fairly standard symphony orchestra recorded in Australia, some of which was conducted by that great Antipodean composer Christopher Gordon – Tyler’s approach is intellectually sound and musically compelling.
Truth isn’t a film which lends itself to big, expansive moments of natural beauty, or thrilling moments of action, so Tyler’s approach was to give the film an internal rhythm, an energy which conveys intellect, investigation, ‘finding stuff out’, and the urgency of research. It also has a streak of heartfelt Americana running through it, alluding to the idea that Mapes and Rather truly felt that they were uncovering something of genuine political importance to the American people.
Cues like the opening piece, “Asking Questions,” unexpectedly, have a touch of Alexandre Desplat about them, with repetitive swirling string figures and piano textures that eventually give way to a downbeat but aggressive string theme, underpinned with ticking metallic percussion. The subsequent “Truth Main Title” is a wonderful construct, a warm and patriotic brass theme augmented by driving snares and rousing strings, which has the serious, dependable air of a network news jingle. Interestingly, however, the theme presented in the main title does not carry through the rest of the score, which instead moves into more mysterious, elusive territory, often featuring a solemn four-note motif for horns.
“Documents” and “Hodges Confirm” revisit to the minimalistic passages of the opening cue, with extended writing for harps, tremolo strings, and moody woodwinds, while “Needle in a Haystack” combines these ideas with dignified brasses, driving rhythms, and the four note motif to excellent effect. Elsewhere, cues like “Three Hours,” “FEA,” “Mistakes and Misunderstanding,” the forceful “Pursuing the Truth,” and “Uncovering Lies,” are moody tension-builders, with insistent ticking percussion lines, piano clusters, throbbing string rhythms, and subtle electronics conveying a sense of ‘racing against the clock’, meeting deadlines, and clandestine midnight encounters with anonymous sources.
Tyler uses some unusual instrumental textures in some of these cues, just to add to the mood, including what sounds like a hurdy-gurdy during both “Three Hours” and “Pursuing the Truth,” brushed hi-hat cymbals in “FEA,” and even a hint of jazz in the brasses in “Uncovering Lies,” while the first half of “60 Minutes” takes the score’s ingredients and gives them a contemporary twist with a light, bubbly, finger-snapping dance music beat.
At the other end of the spectrum, “Culmination” and “OETR” are especially lovely, if a little morose, pieces for strings and piano, and “Transcendence” features a haunting performance by vocalist Tori Letzler, whose timbre reminds me a little of Dolores O’Riordan from the Irish rock band The Cranberries. “Humble Beginnings” and “I Am What I Am” really push the warm Americana to the forefront, before it reaches its zenith during the final two cues, “Public Apology” and “End of An Era,” which begin by revisiting the driving tones of the main theme, move through a few critical moments of self-reflection and introspection via the four-note motif, before expressing a genuine sense of grandeur and patriotic nostalgia as the final cue reaches its climax.
It’s so refreshing to hear a score like this from Brian Tyler. As I mentioned before, I am very fond of his big action scores, and was especially enamored of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the other year, but Truth shows a subtler, more intellectual side to his music that doesn’t get enough credit. You can’t just lay things on thickly in a film like this; there has to be restraint, balance, and nuance, music that guides the audience through a plot that is wordy and highbrow. In the wrong hands a score for a film like Truth can quickly become too dense, but Tyler manages to keep things interesting, musically and emotionally, while simultaneously allowing the heart of the film to come across perfectly. It doesn’t have the showstopping pyrotechnics of a super hero film, and as such may not connect with those who prefer that type of writing, but I personally think this is his best work in several years.
Buy the Truth soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Asking Questions (2:42)
- Truth Main Title (2:32)
- Documents (2:37)
- Three Hours (2:59)
- Culmination (2:46)
- FEA (3:43)
- Transcendence (2:15)
- Duty and Honor (1:23)
- Needle in A Haystack (3:22)
- Humble Beginnings (2:09)
- Mistakes and Misunderstanding (2:10)
- Pursuing the Truth (1:38)
- Uncovering Lies (4:16)
- Hodges Confirm (3:10)
- 60 Minutes (1:54)
- Indiscretion (1:22)
- Let’s Start From the Beginning (2:57)
- OETR (2:59)
- I Am What I Am (1:15)
- Public Apology (3:49)
- End of An Era (4:36)
Running Time: 56 minutes 08 seconds
Varese Sarabande (2015)
Music composed by Brian Tyler. Conducted by Brian Tyler and Christopher Gordon. Orchestrations by Dana Niu, Robert Elhai and Brad Warnaar. Recorded and mixed by Greg Hayes. Edited by Joe Lisanti. Album produced by Brian Tyler and Joe Lisanti.