Eastern Promises is an interaction of the dark, shady, and usually bloody Russian Mafia against small outside forces. Shore’s use of The Godfather-like tone but in a more somber manner is a classic move, yet effective. Much of what transpires in the film is a dark view into the human soul. Howard Shore recognizes that and his score speaks to it, communicating the watery dead end that Cronenberg uses to visually underscore the human answer to problems.
David Cronenberg’s enlistment of Howard Shore (who has scored The Lord of the Rings and had worked with Cronenberg in the past on The Naked Lunch, Spider, A History of Violence, and The Fly I/II – 12 films in all –, even working with Scorsese on several films that include The Departed, Gangs of New York, The Aviator) is a wise one. Shore has the ability to zero in on the ambience of a film’s mood, and enhancing it by the music he composes.
Shore uses violin by Nicola Benedetti, a Scottish violinist who has played with the demanding Tavener. Her violin is exceedingly mournful throughout. In the film, the head of the Russian crime family, Nikolai, instructing several young girls in the art of violin, tells the girls that the violin “must cry.” Benedetti’s violin ‘cries’ the inerasable despair of unmitigated evil and the film is stronger for it.
Based in London, Eastern Promises is the story of a young baby that weaves the characters of this story together in a struggle to achieve goodness in bad situations even as evil puts on a mask of goodness. It is the quintessential fight to balance good and evil, tip the scales back to good. Eastern Promises is easily one of the best films of the year. With excellent performances by several actors, the best being Viggo Mortensen, it’s a fair bet that the film should be widely recognized in several categories in the 2008 Oscar race, this score being one of them.