In the edgy thriller A Perfect Getaway, Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are an adventurous young couple celebrating their honeymoon by backpacking along the Kalalau trail to one of the most stunning and remote beaches on Kauai, in Hawaii. But when the pair hears about the gruesome murder of another newlywed couple elsewhere on the islands, they begin to wonder if they should cut short their trip-of-a-lifetime. Once Cliff and Cydney join up with two other young white couples (just like the killer suspects), things start to get sinister. Miles from civilization, everyone appears threatening and nobody knows who they should trust.
Russian-born composer Boris Elkis is a former collaborator of prolific film and television composer Graeme Revell. For this, his first major film composition, Elkis was granted the opportunity to create a musical score that was complex and mysterious, one that evolves, transforms and takes the viewer on an emotional journey.
While this movie is decidedly a thriller, Elkis also introduced a warm, romantic flavor to his music to highlight the intimacy of the young couples as well as the breathtaking beauty of the Na Pali coastline.
Elkis”™ moody score uses three main themes for its foundation, namely a romantic “wedding” theme, the killers theme, and the Island. As the exotic location of the Kalalau trail, with its gorgeous Hawaiian landscapes, eventually becomes a battle ground for survival, the Island was personified by its own leitmotif.
Explains Elkis, “I”™m a strong believer in the use of melodies in film scores and I think of that as the best all-around tool in a composer”™s toolbox.”
Track One of the CD is the basic A Perfect Getaway theme, incorporating the “killers” theme. This is actually the final cue that is used at the end of the movie, during the end credits crawl. Much like a reverse overture, typically here is where you”™ll hear a medley of most of the music cues that were used throughout the movie.
Track Two is, in fact, the first cue of the movie and appears to have been a tough one to compose. Heard over the main titles and images, it introduces the “wedding” theme. Hence, the movie opens with somber, brooding music that is hauntingly beautiful and romantic yet holds ominous portent. But the music also has to work over the movie”™s first images of home video wedding footage of celebration, festivities and general drunkenness. Thus, the pretty piano and strings theme, in counterpoint to the portentous brass and string theme with minor key changes, creates a menacing mood from the start.
Then, the scene abruptly switches to the magnificent vista of the Kalalau Valley. Track Three – “The Island” – captures the uplifting, visual grandeur of this unique landscape before returning to the ominous mood of the beginning of the movie that deepens as the camera pulls away from the stunning yet treacherous Na Pali coastline.
Elkis says he considers a film”™s score to be a by-product of the story, and observed that a composer is not always afforded the opportunity to cover a lot of musical ground. While at its core this film is a romantic thriller, it also plays upon the genre expectations of the audience; thanks to the breadth of character development, “A Perfect Getaway” is not a typical formulaic slasher thriller. Hence, the challenge for Elkis was to guide the audience without giving too much away,
The resulting composition is a masterful mixture of different styles. Elkis says his intention was to keep the music evolving in order to stave off predictability. The orchestra is used as another color in a rich palette of sounds, and so sometimes it disappears when other, more ambient, elements take over. To personify the island element of the score, Elkis used native flutes and percussion.
Elkis commented that from a dramatic perspective, it is always good to be able to start and finish at the extreme opposites. A Perfect Getaway starts out on a relatively upbeat and celebratory mood. Then, as events worsen, the music reflects the transition from joy to menace to terror.
Boris Elkis”™ original composition is a modern and powerful score with a strong melodic underpinning. David Twohy”™s movie is fantastic, too!
Pauline Adamek is a Sydney-born, Los Angeles-based Critic & Writer.