The music of The Firm (1993)
I really only watch this movie for the music of Dave Grusin, whose piano, rhythm and blues are one of the best scores ever done. When director Sydney Pollack was hiring composers, I don’t think anybody could have guessed he’d abandon everything traditional about movie scores and simply go with piano music. I can’t remember piano music so overarching and distinctive as in The Firm. The score was written by Dave Grusin, who made a lasting impression.
Granted, I’m not saying this movie is any good. It’s just a fairly generic thriller, but Dave Grusin’s score is Oscar-worthy. Unfortunately, he lost to the legendary John Williams for Schindler’s List at the ceremony. Too bad. I think he was robbed. The Firm’s music is unique and drives it, like a good score should, propelling the actors forward during action scenes, romance, and parties. It plays with you like your family dog, and rolls around like a boat in a storm, shaking and vibrating to an offbeat rhythm.
The Main Title
This movie has several unique strains of music, and Grusin changes it up at several times. The Main Title feels like a march, prompting you to start tapping your foot. It is jazz. It is expressionist. The deep notes evoke the South, where Tom Cruise’s character moves. While Mitch goes to an interview at The Firm, The Main Title plays in the background. It is a good introduction to the movie, and the type of music we’re going to get.
Mitch & Abby
After Mitch accepts The Firm’s offer, they drive to Memphis, and arrive in paradise. They see their delightful looking dreamhouse and their stupidly expensive car. The music is deep and rich, a little slower than the Main Theme. It still plays up and down, but the jumps aren’t as dramatic. Everything is smooth and calm, like a nice day. You can see Tom Cruise smiling as the music plays.
This is probably the most popular piece. It plays up and down the scale more than any of the other pieces in the score. This represents the middle portion of the movie as Mitch enjoys his new job, his new car, and the parties. He is stupidly rich and successful. He goes to a bar with Avery, played by Gene Hackman, and they have some fun.
The Firm tries to control Mitch. While overseas, he cheats on his wife with a sleazy woman The Firm hired to get into his pants. He doesn’t know it until later, but The Firm is a real control freak, like a bad rash you can’t get rid of on your foot. The music is slow blues, as Mitch’s confidence takes a dive. He confesses to his wife and she leaves. The rumbling piano makes me think of Tom Cruise frowning.
You can hear tickling high notes all through the middle of the movie, as Mitch figures out what The Firm is really about. He starts plowing through files and uncovering evidence of The Firm’s bad deeds. The Main Title starts to influence the music, and the rumbling starts again like before, pushing the pace. It picks up as Mitch starts to run from The Firm’s goons. They know!
Mud Island Stomp
Mitch breaks a window to escape The Firm and literally jumps out of the building. He runs for it. The music pounds along as he gets lost on Mud Island, a nearby tourist trap. He tries to elude the pursuing goons for a while, but the music rumbles underneath him, as if threatening his life. It finally ends in a shootout, like a true generic thriller. With no surprise in sight, Tom Cruise lives on.
This is the last piece of the movie, after Mitch proves a huge conspiracy of overbilling by The Firm. They will probably go out of business thanks to him. The music is more confident than the rest of the score, as the major chords sound Mitch & Abby’s courage to stand through the ordeal of this movie. Mitch wonders if he lost his wife’s confidence through the whole thing, but she sticks around. They get in their beat up Honda piece of junk car, and drive back to Boston. The music picks up like Memphis Stomp and celebrates. It’s finally over.