THE MUSTANG – Jed Kurzel

The Mustang tells the story of the inmate of a Nevada prison who is placed onto a program to train captured wild horses. Despite the movie covering a subject that is open to clichéd story-telling – the movie is even described as the protagonist “must learn to tame not only the mustang but also the beast within” – director and co-writer Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre has apparently side-stepped such well-worn paths and made a movie that has been received well by critics.

The score is written by Australian-born composer Jed Kurzel, who has written an arresting score featuring a small ensemble of musicians, particularly strings. The close-miked nature of the instruments (which also includes percussion and acoustic guitar) gives the score a powerful presence and showcases the various musical ideas Kurzel has fashioned. The short album (Back Lot Music’s album runs to only 19 minutes) opens with the excellent “Horse Run”. Energetic strings run wild laying down a seemingly undisciplined staccato pattern, seemingly reflecting the untamed equine soon to be captured. Kurzel’s music is frenetic but it’s not chaotic and mirrors the uncontrolled temperament of the wild mustang. These ideas on the relationship between music and the horse and the journey of the horse’s taming – perhaps it also relates to the journey of the inmate undergoes also – seems to be reinforced by Kurzel’s final cue, “Horse”. Here, the strings are now disciplined, allowing a beauty and majesty to emerge in the music. The mustang’s natural energy has now been channeled (but not suppressed) in a way that shows off the animal’s natural traits.

The middle portion of the album is a relatively restrained affair compared with the bookend tracks described above. Strings are an important aspect of the score here too. Kurzel uses a see-sawing string motif at various points, both in isolation (e.g., “Struggle”) and as part of a larger ensemble of instruments (“He’s Back”). There’s also a glissandi motif in the strings that adds a nauseous tone to things and appears to highlight darker aspects of the inmate’s life (“Drugs”). “Isolation”, with it’s lumbering drums, pizzicato strings and strong acoustic guitar includes more conventional-sounding strings that gives us a brief melodic interlude.

Kurzel gives The Mustang a definite sound that seems to reflect the battle between man and animal: not in any confrontational way, more a duel between the protagonists by way of the composer’s use of strings. My thoughts on how the tracks that bookend the album (“Horse Run” and “Horse”) may be way off, but it seems to me that there is a link between the two that can be equated with the mustang’s journey over the course of the movie. My initial disappointment with the short running time turned to a realization that, if the remainder of the score is much the same as what’s featured on the album then the album’s producers have made the right decision to provide just enough music to give a flavor of the score but not tire the listener by giving too much of the same. The Mustang is another notable Kurzel score whose use of a limited orchestral palette hasn’t limited his ability to convey his musical ideas.

The album can be purchased HERE or at other online stores as a digital download or to stream.

Rating: ***½/*****

  1. Horse Run (2:25)
  2. Isolation (2:38)
  3. He’s Back (2:00)
  4. Struggle (2:31)
  5. The Encounter (1:40)
  6. Drugs (2:03)
  7. Henry (2:33)
  8. Horse (3:17)

Running Time: 19:07

Back Lot Music (2019)


  1. Accordingly to this review, Screensoundradio has included both “Horse run” and “Horse” to their database as those are the tracks fitting the station’s standards. Good to see the review reflect our thoughts

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