Following up on their
"American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition" successes,
director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman reunited for the film adaptation
of "Jarhead", Anthony Swofford's cynical collection of his experiences
as a U.S. Marine in the era of Operation Desert Storm.
Rather than latching
onto the potential of an individual story with an international backdrop,
Newman launched into his regrettable 'ambient' mode, this time expressing
alienation and little else. The title of the opening track, 'Welcome to the
Suck', is not only a reference to the unpleasantness of combat service, it
provides a self-criticism of startling accuracy. The score's aggressive doses
of electric and synthesized instruments, pop rhythms, breathing and whistling
effects, and--peeking out from under the noise--a string orchestra, suggest the
cacophony of an industrial workplace... but that also has an implicit
suggestion of something constructive behind the racket, a proposition that is
rather inoperative here. When one of the most interesting tracks is called
'Dickskinner', the word 'rubbish' suffices.
Two rap selections
prompted a parental advisory warning in the States, but in fairness Naughty By
Nature's 'O.P.P' and Public Enemy's 'Fight the Power' are a perfect fit for
Newman's underscore. The odd men out are Bobby McFerrin and his optimistic
'Don't Worry, Be Happy', T-Rex with the old-school rock of 'Bang a Gong (Get It
On)', and Tom Waits with the melancholy 'Soldier's Things'.
Thomas Newman could
have stayed out of The Suck, but "Jarhead" ends up being a misstep
for the composer of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Oscar and
Lucinda". For my part, there is scant likelihood of me getting sucked into
this disc again.