August 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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John POWELL
The Bourne Identity  
  Hollywood Studio Symphony conducted by Pete Anthony; produced, programmed and arranged by the composer
  VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6367   [54:59]

Bourne Identity

I'm too old to easily tell Matt Damon from Ben Affleck apart so I have to keep checking to see which of the two actor friends stars in this espionage thriller based on a blockbuster novel by Robert Ludlam and which stars in The Sum of All Fears, an almost simultaneously released espionage thriller based on a blockbuster novel by Tom Clancy. While The Sum of All Fears re-launches the Jack Ryan franchise, once the home of to Alec Baldwin then Harrison Ford, this current movie presumes to launch a new franchise around Ludlam's Jason Bourne, hero of a trilogy of novels, the current story already the subject of a 1988 mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain. Regardless of the relative merits of the two franchises, musically Damon has drawn the short straw. While the mini-series version had a score by Laurence Rosenthal, and The Sum of All Fears has an orchestral score by Jerry Goldsmith, this big budget summer movie hasn't any music at all. What it does have, or at least this CD has, is 55 minutes of John Powell fiddling with techno/drum and bass (who can tell the difference between the various sub-genres of organised noise which comprise modern popular "music"?) beats, squeaks, fizzes, twiddles, glurbs, klongs, glinks, pings, bliddles, plonks and burbles over the top of a recording of a string orchestra (and solo bassoon) so characterless it may as well have originated from a sample CD. Apart from the strings, and some occasional guitar, piano and live percussion, anyone with a basic of knowledge of MIDI, sampling and sequencing could produce something functionally identical in a few hours.

There's an off-the-peg middle-Eastern feel to the opening, and thereafter its modern electronic action-suspense by numbers, interspersed by the odd bit of ambient mood music so vapid it's forgotten before it's finished playing. This is the sort of thing one hears on TV shows such as Alias all the time, and while it sounds cheap and irritating on TV it is all but unbelievable the state of blockbuster filmmaking has degenerated so far that such electronic doodling should be considered a suitable accompaniment. The film apparently styles itself as a serious, old school suspense thriller. In that case director Doug Liman has forgotten one thing. Old school movies used to have music on their soundtracks.

Gary S Dalkin

No stars

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