Isolated Scores: An Underrated Special Feature
If anyone knows anything about me, it is that I love movies. I love them. I could live without a great many things in this world, but movies would not be one of them.
And one of the things I love most about movies is the soundtracks. Yes, the orchestral scores that often are the key to a scene getting the right impact. Sure, the actors, the directors, the cinematographers, and the writers all play their parts, but frankly, if the scene doesn’t have the right music behind it (or in some cases, the right lack of music), it can fundamentally change how you feel about the scene.
That’s why, when a new movie comes out, the very first thing I do is get the soundtrack and listen to it… often repeatedly. Its my way of reliving the movie when I can’t go back to theaters and see it again right away. It is my way of connecting to the story, to the characters.
But I feel that the score is something that many movie-goers simply take for granted; most movie-goers wouldn’t remember the music behind the scene before the dialogue or the action. But everyone would notice if it weren’t there; take this YouTube series, where they remove the score from iconic scenes. You notice that it is gone, but did you remember what it should have sounded like?
That’s why, when a movie comes out on Blu-ray, and it includes this rarest of features, I am overjoyed. The isolated score.
But what is “isolated score”? It’s the option to watch the entire film without the dialogue, without the sound effects. With only the score. It’s like listening to the soundtrack in time with the movie itself. It is, frankly, a great way to experience the music, as it was intended, paired with the moments it was intended, isolated so that you can truly appreciate the music for what it does.
As I’m writing this, I’ve got my brand new copy of Mission: Impossible- Fallout playing, with this feature turned on (music composed by Lorne Balfe). And without the dialogue, without the story to distract, it really paints a clear picture of what, exactly the music does for the film. It highlights where the composer, the director, and the editors chose not to have any music, and it elevates the music to the forefront of focus, so that the viewer has a true appreciation for all that orchestral scores do for the movies they love.
But it is a rare feature to find. The most recent movie I can recall that included it in the release was Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and even then it was only included as a digital feature on Movies Anywhere; it is nowhere to be found on the actual Blu-ray. Looking through my collection of movies, there are very few that included this audio track (for that’s all it really is, an audiotrack that plays over the film, just like audio commentary tracks or dubbed language tracks), and even less that dignified it as one of the features listed on the back of the box.
Including this feature, to me, is a love letter to the movie’s score, to the composer. It shows the viewers (the ones who aren’t like me and don’t obsess over soundtracks like I do) how important this element of film making is to the process. It illustrates the movies in a whole new light.
Ever since I saw Fallout in theaters a few months ago, I’ve been listening to Lorne Balfe’s music on repeat. But watching it now, paired with the movie itself, isolated to where the dialogue isn’t distracting from it, I feel this is the first time I’ve gotten to really appreciate the effort and care he put into this score, the effort and care the director and editors put into choosing which scenes had music and which didn’t. I appreciate the movie as a whole, because it shows that this was a production that saw the music as the crucial element, not just a necessity to have in the background.
I’m telling you, Fallout is probably my favorite movie this year. And this is a year that included Infinity War and Crimes of Grindelwald. It gave me a great respect for Tom Cruise as an entertainer and an actor/producer, it was the most fun I had in theaters, and now, finding the isolated score as a feature on the Blu-ray release has really given me a lot of respect for the studio and the production team behind this spectacular film. I only wish it was included more often on Blu-ray releases.