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The November Man
  • Composed by Marco Beltrami
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2014 / 61m

Starring Pierce Brosnan as a retired CIA hitman (brought back for one last mission), former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko and directed by veteran action helmer Roger Donaldson, The November Man would seem like a nice way of filling the long gap in between Bond films but has met with only a lukewarm response, Brosnan’s performance being singled out for praise but little else.  Donaldson’s career seems to have hit the ropes after a few decent films in the 1980s and 90s (his previous movie was the Nicolas Cage box office disaster Justice).

He’s worked with a few excellent composers over the years – Maurice Jarre, Christopher Young, Trevor Jones – and he’s worked with an excellent one here too, the prolific Marco Beltrami, with his third score of the year so far.  He’s always been a fine composer of action music, in his earlier years mostly as part of his horror scores but more recently on a spate of “straight” action thrillers too, popularly the last couple of Die Hard movies; though sometimes his music has been far more impressive within the movie than on the accompanying CD (The Wolverine springs immediately to mind – tremendously effective but I didn’t enjoy it away from the film at all).

Marco Beltrami

Marco Beltrami

The November Man sits somewhere in the middle of all that.  There are some very fine parts, some which set the pulse racing, but other parts of the album see barely anything happening at all.  This is evident even within the opening cue, “Take Orders”, which begins with a terrifically moody, atmospheric section bolstered by the unique colour of a cimbalom, but which then descends into somewhat generic, uninteresting action.  Such is the pattern of the score – there are decent moments of generally percussive, rhythmic action (Beltrami’s take on John Powell’s oft-imitated Bourne style, though it does retain his own very distinctive signature touches) but several are admittedly somewhat short-lived.  The pick of the bunch are “Run From Mason”, “Mason Saves Lucy” and the finale “Reunited”.

Elsewhere, “Mason Scores” is a lovely piece focusing on a gorgeous guitar solo, slightly steamy but deliberately devoid of real romance, not the easiest trick to pull off for a composer (it’s a shame it’s so brief).  The jabbing strings that appear at the end of the otherwise somewhat bland “Leg Cut” are a creative, very effective touch.  “Mason Jarred” features some very intense, aggressive writing which is the sort of thing this composer does so well.  Finally, the short end credits piece finally puts a little meat on the bones of what might be considered the main theme, which has been hinted at throughout the score.

So there’s a decent 20-25 minutes of music here, but what surrounds it is really rather disappointing, innocuous drum loops and noodling strings which don’t seem worthy of a composer of Beltrami’s abilities.  Trimming the album somewhat would have helped, but even then I’m not sure it would have been all that great.  It’s certainly worth picking up for fans of the composer because there’s enough here to satisfy them, but more casual listeners would probably be well advised to see the film first and see what they think.

Rating: ** 1/2 | |

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  1. Tiago (Reply) on Sunday 7 September, 2014 at 03:44

    “The Wolverine springs immediately to mind – tremendously effective but I didn’t enjoy it away from the film at all”

    For me, it was the contrary: I didn’t like the score on the movie, but I quite enjoyed it on the album. And, personally, I think the cue “Where To?” is one of the best of the last year, bold and heroic.

  2. Callum Hofler (Reply) on Tuesday 9 September, 2014 at 08:46

    Disappointing to this result from Beltrami, especially after the recent The Giver, which surpassed any and all of my expectations.