Music Composed and Conducted by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Movie Genre: Adventure
Movie Release: 2009
Soundtrack Release: 2009
Label: MovieScore Media


“Composer Benjamin Wallfisch launched his film scoring career
by conceiving the musical synonym of a jailbreak.”

Before taking on the ambitious and commercially successful “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), Rupert Wyatt had impressed the film industry by directing the jailbreak adventure “The Escapist” (2008). A convict in a maximum security prison wants desperately to meet his daughter and in doing so he recruits four of his fellow prisoners. Hardly friendly are the feelings between them, but they do share a common goal, a sacred one: the conquest of freedom. An emotional boost to their efforts will be realized by the English composer and professional conductor Benjamin Wallfisch, who became associate conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra at the age of 22 and composed his first score for a film released in cinemas at the age of 24. Achievements far from insignificant! But it was “The Escapist” (2008), that actually turned Benjamin Wallfisch into a film composer to everyone’s mind.

The score starts dynamically with the main musical theme to its full version in “Theme from The Escapist” (# 1), which is distinguished by two particular characteristics: the first has to do with the urgent nature of the prison break that emerges from the certain usage of the strings and the second from the participation of a musical instrument called cimbalom. Its very distinctive sound gives a European quality to the music, since generally it is considered the instrument that principally defines the musical identity of Eastern Europe, as used in many other film scores over the years. However, the biggest impact of cimbalom’s sound is the unique sonic signature that brings especially to a film with a screenplay about organizing a prison break. Nonetheless, a clever idea that might not have been repeated in the past to a movie of this genre. Generally, these types of films have formulaic scores heavy in synthetic sounds, which do not possess a special element that will distinguish them from all the rest. This specific choice manages to instill an interesting and remarkable identity to the music, hence to the movie, beyond the ordinary.

Composer Benjamin Wallfisch does not use the cimbalom featured theme thoughtlessly. And most definitely never accidental. Depending on the developments of the plot, he finds opportunities to refer to it briefly, indicating to the viewer that the time for breaking free approaches. In other words, the theme functions as an indication, promoting the jailbreak, exemplified in «Lenny Recruited» (#5). By the end of the movie, the theme returns to its full version, a clear message for the now fulfilled original goal. Regarding the rest of the music, there is an interesting mixture that retains the attention of the viewer, while watching the movie, or the attention of listener, while listening to the score as a standalone musical hearing. Several solo piano moments, performed by the composer, suggest the internal psychological process of the characters. Elenor Bowers-Jolley’s vocals are essentially the voice of escapist’s daughter, who calls him to reach her, as presented in “Confessional” (#3). Thus, the escapist’s desperate effort to successfully carry out the jailbreak is felt by the viewer of the movie in a more intense way.

For the underground scenes, during of which the prison break occurs, the composer chooses to enhance the music with a different style, separating there the score from the rest, which is almost completely orchestral. Indicative is the track “Underground Escape” (#4), an entirely electronic piece with a piano contribution to its closure, that works successfully giving the impression that something is moving behind the scenes. This is the proper use of electronic music, as long as it has a clear purpose. It is really commendable when a young composer embraces a cinematic and musical mature way of thinking, which is unfortunately rare from many of his spotlighted colleagues nowadays. Around 2009 though, when this score was written, Benjamin Wallfisch was indeed considered as a promising composer. Similarly, interesting electronic moments, easily digested, are encountered during the sewer chase in “Sump Chase” (#9).

Elenor Bowers-Jolley’s voice comes back for the last time when father and daughter finally meet. Their meeting is accompanied by a melodramatic theme underscoring the emotion of the scene, in “Reunion” (#19). With a final appearance of the escapist’s theme, combining cimbalom and strings, the composer completes the score of the film and makes us want to discover more of his musical capabilities. Benjamin Wallfisch might already had a brilliant career as a conductor when he wrote music for this film, but his skills in film scoring were just warming up. Since then, his own development as a film composer, brought him to compose one of the best soundtracks of the recent years in animation for a film titled “Gamba” (2015). Most certainly, we can expect even more from him in the future.

Track List:

01. Theme From The Escapist (1:35)
02. Diamond (0:47)
03. Confessional (2:08)
04. Underground Escape (2:15)
05. Viv’s Lab (0:56)
06. Lacey Hunted (1:16)
07. Lenny Recruited (0:53)
08. Into The Dryer (0:31)
09. Sump Chase (3:14)
10. The Trade (1:07)
11. Elegy For Brodie (1:01)
12. Tony Killed (1:21)
13. Abandoned Station (2:51)
14. Frank’s Vision (1:06)
15. Wonderment (1:17)
16. Train (0:40)
17. Lacey Is Free (2:35)
18. Escalator (3:14)
19. Reunion (1:19)
20. End Credits (1:01)

Total Time: 31:00

The tracks that stand out are noted with bold letters

Score Rating: * * * 1/2