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The Tourist
  • Composed by James Newton Howard
  • Varese Sarabande 302 067 075 / 2010 / 67:26

About the last film one might expect the director of the magnificent The Lives of Others, the gloriously-named Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, to make next would be a romantic thriller starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.  But that’s what he did – The Tourist is a remake of the 2005 French film Anthony Zimmer, which had a score by Frederic Talgorn.  This was meant to have a score by Gabriel Yared, but he was replaced quite late by James Newton Howard (and one piece of Yared music is, surprisingly, on this soundtrack album).  Howard’s score is very Hollywood, in a way Yared’s probably wasn’t; many reviews of the film have been highly critical of the score, so maybe the producers didn’t make the right decision.  In any case, for these purposes, I’m only interested in the album, which I have to say sounds pretty elegant and is very enjoyable.

The ever-chameleonic Howard blends several styles together.  He has once more done his best John Powell impersonation for the action music, of which there is a lot.  There isn’t much variety in it, but there is real energy; it’s consistently exciting and consistently bright, ever-present percussion driving forward the melodic brass.  The other main side to it is the more romantic material – we’re in Paris, so of course the most hackneyed cliche of all film music must be brought out, with Howard obeying Rule One, which is All films set in Paris MUST be accompanied by accordion music. If there isn’t a shot of the Eiffel Tower at some point accompanied by accordions, I’ll eat my hat.  However – the main romantic theme, while it sounds extremely familiar (I’ve been waiting for someone else to point out what it sounds like, but so far nobody has, so maybe it’s just my imagination) is completely charming.  The composer doesn’t actually do anything with it other than just repeat it several times, but it’s such a charming piece, that hardly matters.  This isn’t a great album by any means, but it’s very enjoyable; probably Howard’s most enjoyable non-Shyamalan album in a long time.  ***

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  1. Michael (Reply) on Tuesday 21 December, 2010 at 13:28

    “All films set in Paris MUST be accompanied by accordion music. If there isn’t a shot of the Eiffel Tower at some point accompanied by accordions, I’ll eat my hat.”
    – Loved this line.

    It’s not your imagination, that romantic theme sounds extremely familiar but I can’t put my finger on it. While that theme is very charming I equally enjoyed other parts of the score, for example a track like ‘burned letter’ is very interesting.

    I also enjoyed the score without thinking it was anything really special, but I’d probably give it an extra half star.

    And here I thought your next review would be Inception!

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  3. BasilB (Reply) on Thursday 23 December, 2010 at 10:49

    Well, I don’t think that Howard is not doing much with the romantic theme here. Of coures, there are quite some blank repetitions.
    But what I also like is the very frequent nod to the theme during action sequences and the dramatic stuff (like “Bedroom Dreams”). For me “The Tourist” is a pleasant surprise and an entertaining score. I would give it 4 out of 5.

    Keep reviewing James, always like to read your thoughts on recent film music albums.

  4. F_elliott (Reply) on Tuesday 28 December, 2010 at 00:18

    it’s not Paris, is Venice!!

    BTW; Howar’ds love theme sounds like something by… maybe… Kamen?