There's always so much to unpack about a movie trailer: the stars, the plot, how much of the plot is being totally given away. But in many cases, the part of the trailer that sticks with you the longest is the music. Be it a pop song or a piece or orchestral score, it's the music that most often makes a trailer.
This Week's Trailer: Out of the Furnace, the upcoming film from director Scott Cooper, who guided Jeff Bridges to an Oscar for Crazy Heart. Here, he's back with a story of brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) who find themselves in trouble and on the wrong side of the law. Everything about the trailer sits under the black-smoked clouds of industrial northeast economic hard times and a world passing by the American laborer. That feel is only bolstered by the hardy cast -- Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard certainly. Really, only Zoe Saldana as Bale's love interest projects an air that's more modern than elegiac.
This Week's Tune: A throwback track for a throwback movie, the trailer pairs these visions of modern orphans of industry with Pearl Jam's "Release," the closing track from the band's smash debut album Ten.
How Literal Is It? Eddie Vedder's lyrics speak of father-to-son legacies and the chilly indifference of time. There's nothing too on-the-nose about the song as it pertains to Into The Furnace -- it's primarily a brother-to-brother tale -- but there will certainly be aspects of familial history that will echo Vedder's words.
How Emotional Is It? Since the very early days of Peal Jam -- their Gen-X-er's focus on the recession of the early '90s; their connection to Neil Young -- Vedder has been his generation's representative to the table of Issue-Conscious Rockers, with a particularly close tie to lower-middle-class white guys. That kind of "poetry of the American worker" that feels handed down from Bob Dylan if not before, but refracted through a Gen X lens. As the band has gotten older and more established, Peal Jam has become decidedly old guard, and their music -- especially their early music -- the stuff of early '90s nostalgia, when everybody cared and nobody danced.
With more than twenty years' distance between now and the debut of Ten, there's a strong emotional pull between Pearl Jam and pretty much anybody in their 30s, but especially men. And if Kanye West's presence in the Wolf of Wall St. trailer is a dog-whistle to fans that Martin Scorsese is back to doing Dude Movies again, Pearl Jam's presence in the Out of the Furnace trailer is a signal that, more than just a story of criminal brothers trying to get out of a scrape, this is a story about America and substance and struggle and importance. They're two sides of the male-audience coin, these two films, and as a bonus, they'll both be angling for Oscars.
How Definitive Is It? Strongly definitive. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another recent movie that has employed Pearl Jam at all, much less "Release." It's a music choice that will set Out of the Furnace apart, for sure.
Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: It perhaps presses its thumb down on the scale a shade too much, in terms of overselling the middle-classiness of the movie, but ultimately, "Release" gives the trailer exactly what a song should give a trailer: a strongly emotional tip of the hand to the kind of movie you're getting. It's telling a potential audience something about the film that mere plot description cannot: much like the band whose beloved song you're hearing, this is a movie with somethin to say.