The Bridge Between a Film and Its Music


The chances of finding two suspects on the run are quite slim in a remarkably populated city like Manhattan. What does NYPD detective Andre Davis do when he faces this dilemma in 21 Bridges?

Chadwick Boseman's character, Andre Davis shuts down all 21 bridges connecting the island of Manhattan to find the suspects, while trying to understand the unfolding conspiracy involving him. Directed by Brian Kirk and produced by the Russo Brothers, this film is a fast-paced thriller that keeps the audience drawn to the characters as their morals and values are in question. When it is difficult for the characters to communicate their thoughts, the captivating film score by Alex Belcher and Henry Jackman tells the unspoken complexities of both the protagonists and antagonists.

With credits on many fan favorite projects such as Captain America: Civil War, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and the Netflix sci-fi thriller IO, Alex Belcher is a storyteller that uses music as his medium. Recently, Alex granted us an opportunity to have ask him some questions.

What approach did you take to compose for 21 Bridges? Did you have any inspirations for the score?

Yes, quite a few. [We listened to] Bernard Herrmann's score for Cape Fear, Quincy Jones’s score for Money; [the score for] The French Connection; the David Shire score for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three; as well as Taxi Driver -- an American classic -- all of these films from an era that we [Henry Jackman and I] love. We weren't trying to completely imitate the score from these films. We wanted it to be a nod in that direction while still putting our own spin on it because we're not those legendary film composers, and we don't write exactly like they do. We had a blast writing the score because it is music that you don't get to write a lot.

Howard Shore, a composer for The Lord of the Rings, once mentioned that some of his favorite moments to score were the heartfelt moments between Frodo and Sam. Were there any dynamics between certain characters in any of your projects so far that you adore the most?

In 21 Bridges, there was a very captivating dynamic between Andre [played by Chadwick Boseman] and Michael [played by Stephan James], the two main characters. One of them is a cop, the other is a bad guy. It’s a very generic relationship but within that there is so much more. They are both two people who are in something that is over their head, they're trying to make sense of it all, and they're against each other. That to me artistically was a lot of fun because of the good guy versus bad guy dynamic, and we all know that type of music, but relationships like that of Andre and Michael are more nuanced than that.

Chadwick Boseman, 21 Bridges

They're both interesting to each other. They both have really developed characters and intricate personalities, and the way that those two characters play off each other on screen really allowed us to write some music that dived into that existential being. This is a lot of fun because you're not just playing what you see on screen, you get to play music that fit their emotional depth. It really opened up a lot musically as to what we could do and write in a way that you may not be able to do for other films.

You've worked with Henry Jackman on many projects such as 21 Bridges, Captain America: Civil War, and the two Kingsman movies, and many more. Can you talk a little bit about your work relationship with Henry Jackman? Is there a story behind how you started collaborating?

Henry and I met almost 10 years ago. At the time, his career was just starting out and I had just moved to LA and started working here at Hans Zimmer's place. He was looking for someone that could help him out and make some noises, mess around with some synths, play some guitar here and there. That's really where our professional relationship began.

We had a shared love of a lot of the same films like I talked about with 21 Bridges. A lot of our inspirational aspects come from that era, so we bonded over that and our professional relationship snowballed to where it is today as collaborators [...] I was a young guy starting out and he taught me a lot. I made a lot of cool sounds, he liked what I was doing, and we worked well together. We've both been very lucky in our careers, and I'm very lucky to have a mentor like him because that's critical [when you're getting] yourself through that door and establishing yourself as a composer here in Hollywood.

What sparked your interest to become a composer?

Growing up, I worked at a theater as an actor while also pursuing music, so at a pretty young age it was pretty quick for me to combine those two loves for storytelling and writing music. I stumbled upon the profession in college when I was studying composition and realized that it allowed me to sort of hang on to the feelings of theater that I loved so much.

Are there any exciting upcoming projects that you would like to talk about?

At the moment I am doing Made in Italy, which is a film by the actor James D'Arcy, and it is his directorial debut for Lionsgate. It's a wonderful film. Henry [Jackman] has a long relationship with the Russo Brothers, and through that we will be continuing to work with them on Dhaka, which we’re doing right now. This is a really intense film, and we are super excited for the audience to watch that and hear our score.

21 Bridges is now in theaters.

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