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Michael GIACCHINO - Medal of Honor (Underground): Film Music CD Reviews- January 2001

January 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /January/




Medal of Honor (Underground)  
  DREAMWORKS Interactive   [65:12]
Amazon US

The biggest surprise that I had when I opened this album was to find myself quoted from my review of the first album Medal of Honour that Michael Giacchino released last year. I said of that album, "On the strength of this one release, Michael Giacchino should go from being a virtual unknown to taking a major step to becoming one of the very top film composers of the next few decades." This new follow-up album of his, Medal of Honour, Underground confirms my opinion.

This new DreamWorks game is another World War II adventure story pitting Manon, the O.S.S. heroine against the evil Nazis. Her explosive adventures take from deep beneath Paris, to North Africa, Greece, Germany and Italy thus giving Giacchino the opportunity to inject local colour along the way including the use of some Gregorian mode-type writing in Last Rites (at Monte Casino) and with something of Respighi here too.

Once again I was impressed with the apparent ease that Giacchino tackles a broad, very detailed canvass for an action film creating a sound world that grips and holds the imagination with effects that imaginatively avoid the usual traps of the genre. His musical structures are rich and complex and multi-stranded, but each strand is perfectly balanced and placed within the texture so that you have the impression of a vibrantly coloured tapestry. His scoring for voices impresses equally. I can only think of three modern film composers who can offer such a rich and satisfying sound palate: John Williams (to whom Giacchino makes respectful obeisance - and to Bernard Herrmann), Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith. I can think of no greater tribute.

There is but one complaint. This comes from me being too old a reviewer and remembering too many themes. It is meant as no reflection on Michael. One has to suppose that the main character of this new game, Manon, inspired by the exploits of Hélène Déschamps is French. Michael Ciacchino has created a theme for her that in its first few notes irresistibly makes me want to anticipate the old pop song, 'Arrivederci Roma' which I found disconcerting because she is French and so much of the action, particularly at the beginning and end, takes place in Paris. (Although the turning-point battle of Monte Casino south of Rome is an integral part of the game's plot).

This is a thrilling and intense, and evocative score that really engages the senses. I hope that Giacchino is given the chance to score something different now. I would hate to think that such a talent should be squandered on scoring 'action' films exclusively.

Incidentally, the erudite booklet notes were scribed by Paul Tonks the well-known film music commentator and one of our valued Film Music on the Web reviewers

Ian Lace


I invited Michael Giacchino to respond about Arrivederci Roma, he wrote:-

Arrivederci Roma: Someone at the sessions mentioned the same thing about the first three notes. I hadn't heard the song that he was talking about (or perhaps I had and not remembered it). The main theme has two distinct variations. The variation that you are speaking of (variation "B") was born out of the main theme (variation "A"), which is a theme in which the first two notes lead into a Major Key. Variation "B" is defined by the first two notes lead into a minor 6th chord, representing a more intimate moment with the main character (whereas the major key version represents more of a French Patriotism point of view). I guess that minor shift is what reminds people of the Roma song - Michael Giacchino.

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