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The Adjustment Bureau
  • Composed by Thomas Newman
  • Relativity Music Group / 2011 / 56:33

Based on a Philip K. Dick story, The Adjustment Bureau concerns itself with fate, suggesting a world in which everybody is steered down a certain course by a group (the bureau of the title) – until Matt Damon comes along and decides he’d like to go a different way, thank you very much.  One of the pre-eminent film composers of his generation, Thomas Newman has been fairly quiet of late – since 2008’s Wall-E, he has restricted himself generally to low-profile scores for low-profile films.  That made this feel like a bit of an event – finally, a chance to hear a new score from the composer for a major film.  It’s a shame, therefore, that I feel like I’ve heard it several times before – it’s very slick, very well-written, but to be frank it’s Newman-by-the-numbers, much of it sounding like the sort of thing he could write in his sleep.

Generally rhythm-based rather than melody-based, the score’s primary function seems to be to generate a sense of movement, a seemingly-endless array of percussion on hand at all times to do so.  It works well enough in that function – but I’m surprised Newman didn’t try to delve a little deeper.  When he does do that – with an impressive theme, “Elise”, a very modern piece for guitars and drums – the results are impressive.  There’s one very fine piece of what might loosely be called “action music”, “Escher Loop”, where Newman’s chosen style for the score seems to be at its most inspired.  It’s all perfectly OK – just nothing special.  James Horner was originally mentioned as the composer of the film, and while inevitably he would have made it sound like A Beautiful Mind, I think that would have worked better for the film and been a more interesting album.  Hope Newman manages to find something which can inspire him a little more for his next project, whenever that may be.  ***

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