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Jason Bourne
  • Composed by John Powell and David Buckley
  • Backlot Music / 2016 / 61m

Jason Bourne didn’t even feature in his fourth cinematic outing back in 2012 (perhaps his memory loss led to him forgetting to turn up) but is back in the fifth, with Matt Damon reprising his most famous role and Paul Greengrass returning as director.  Reviews have been mixed but audiences have flocked to see it.  John Powell’s iconic music for the first three films in the series has gone on to define the sound of action films for a generation, so it was a relief (and a surprise – he didn’t do either the previous entry in this series or Greengrass’s Captain Philips) to see his name attached, albeit accompanied by David Buckley this time round.  The division of labour isn’t clear (as has been well-documented, Powell suffered a personal tragedy earlier in the year so it is no surprise that he didn’t do it solo) but there’s no mistaking Powell’s voice in it.  I guess the issue – for which the composer is clearly entirely blameless – is that that very sound has now become so copied, there was always the risk that far from sounding cutting edge, nearly a decade after The Bourne Ultimatum – a decade in which this sound has been heard as a prevailing influence in literally dozens of scores for big action movies – an energetic boost was needed to push the sound on into another place and avoid it falling somewhat anonymously into the vast array of imitators.

While it’s great to go into this universe again, Powell and Buckley haven’t really managed to avoid that issue from materialising.  The familiar material is here as you’d expect – the opening track “I Remember Everything” includes snippets of just about all of it, despite only being two minutes long, and there’s plenty later; and the bulk of the action material – which to be fair is the bulk of the score – is constructed in that now very recognisable way.  But if truth be told, it’s often like variations on the existing material from the earlier scores rather than something genuinely fresh.  The injection of a few (even) more modern synths feels a bit cursory, not enough to really make it feel fresh.  It’s hard to imagine anyone ever choosing to listen to Jason Bourne over one of the first three scores in the series, but having said that, the material on which it is built is so strong that taken purely on its own terms it is undoubtedly an enjoyable way of spending an hour.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Momo (Reply) on Saturday 13 August, 2016 at 03:33

    I wonder what Powell busies himself with normally. I often look forward to his children / animation scores every year, but we’re lucky to get one annually. Never been enamored with his action movie scores (save for X-Men).

  2. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Saturday 13 August, 2016 at 08:45

    The crisp editing ensures that one is never bored throughout this +2 hour movie. What is very disturbing, in the storyline, is the use of surveillance devices such as Satellites and CCTV Cams to spy on characters (from Lebanon to London) and track their movements on massive screens at the CIA heaquarters at Langley House, aided by intrusively smart computers and mobiles. This technology isn’t a conspiracy-theory fantasy…its existed since the early 1990s and is part of the arsenal used by our Governments to spy on its citizens. There is so much happening on the movie’s Audio tracks, at massive decibel levels, that POWELL’S score is barely audible. The only time I was able to focus on his themes was during the longest rolling credits-sequence I’ve had to endure for ages. There were innovative percussive embelishments propping up pleasant themes, but I had to dash out after the Music Credits, and into another Cinema for ‘Ghostbusters’. After reading your review, James, I was curious to hear THEODORE SHAPIRO’S Choral, Symphonic opus…I enjoyed variations of the 1984 hit-parader song, and the GOLDSMTHIAN ‘Omenesque’ chants, belted out at thunderous levels as they competed with a volume of audio effects. I’ll probably order a copy as the Chorus was very impressive. You admired STEVE PRICE’S scores for ‘Gravity’ & ‘Fury’ James, so I’ll be checking out his ‘Suicide Squad’ score next week, not that vieming a movie provides a definitive overview of a score. My CD for ‘Gods of Egypt eventually pltched up, and while BELTRAMI’S music was mostly excellent when combined with the film’s visuals…except for very few cues, the score is a boring let down without said visuals. Are contemporary composers unable to create beautiful melodies? Has BELTRAMI never bothered to listen to ALFRED NEWMAN’S themes for ‘The Egyptian’… Those beautful love themes, embellished with the sounds of the ancient sistrum and other exotic percussion instruments , never fail to evoke a sense of wonderment, regardless of the number of playings over the years. By comparison, BELTRAMI’S love themes are pedestrian and unmemorable. My wish is that when tackling epic historical/biblical projects, composers channel the genius of composers who created the foundation and art of film scoring. processes.

  3. Michael (Reply) on Saturday 13 August, 2016 at 12:54

    If you like his animation scores I’d recommend listening to his knight and day, Mr&Mrs.Smith&The italian job soundtracks.
    It’s like a mix between his animation scores and his action scores

  4. Momo (Reply) on Sunday 14 August, 2016 at 06:03

    Will do, Michael!

  5. TDidz927 (Reply) on Friday 19 August, 2016 at 23:11

    His work on Chicken Run is top notch.

    Not being sarcastic one bit. Building the Crate is one of my favorite cues ever.

    • Michael (Reply) on Saturday 20 August, 2016 at 07:06

      Building the crate is absolutely brilliant but you forgot to mention Harry Gregson-Williams who collaborated with him on the score and is a great composer on his own:)

  6. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Sunday 21 August, 2016 at 14:21

    Yeah, but “Building the Crate” itself is by Powell.

  7. Michael (Reply) on Sunday 21 August, 2016 at 20:06

    @Edmund Meinerts My mistake sorry but still a great soundtrack