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AIR FORCE ONE
Exceptional action score is better than Goldsmith's replacement
I think it's fair to say that Randy Newman and director Wolfgang Peterson had a clash of personalities - Newman has one, Peterson doesn't. I can't believe Peterson - once-great director of Das Boot - could have dismissed this score for any musical reasons. It's an excellent action score, bearing a more-than-passing resemblance to Basil Poledouris's Starship Troopers (which it preceded); in fact, the similarities are so great it's almost impossible to believe that Poledouris didn't spend a lot of time listening to this score, or even that Troopers was temp-tracked with it.
Newman seems to take the softer action style of James Horner and mix in Jerry Goldsmith's harsher, more uncompromising orchestrations; this gives, in some ways, the best of both worlds.
The opening theme is excellent - like Goldsmith's, a "rah-rah" American fanfare, but far less manipulative. "Don't Touch This" is a brilliant action cue, like nothing Newman has done before or since; it proves beyond doubt that Newman is capable of this sort of thing, and I hope that a more intelligent director than Peterson will hire him soon.
If Newman were to set his mind to it, he could write classical music as good as Copland; he clearly owes a debt to the great American composer, and has a reasonably similar style at times. A love theme appears in "Alice and Grace" in the high strings, not entirely dissimilar to Awakenings, that is utterly gorgeous, and confirms Newman's position as one of the leading composers of pure, nostalgic Americana.
There is some brass writing in "Hijacked" that is simply out-of-this-world; Newman's busy orchestration from his scores for animations is here, but the style is very harsh, bordering on the dissonant at times. It is a breathtaking track, as exciting as Goldsmith's equivalent "The Hijacking" in his score. The minute-long "Pod Deployed" contains music that would be repeated verbatim in the "Klendathu Drop" cue of Starship Troopers. "No Landing" is a quite impossibly exciting action cue, at least as good as anything Jerry Goldsmith - the master of action music - has ever written. "Fight" is not far off, either - the low-end piano playing is not far off something Goldsmith might write himself. "Crossed Wires" is another heart-stopping cue, but the best is saved for last - "Kill Korsh" is incredible action music, film music at its very best.
Jerry Goldsmith wrote a perfectly adequate score for Air Force One, with some fine moments. Randy Newman, though, wrote a near-masterpiece. It's one of the great action scores of the 90s, in fact. Hopefully Newman will find a movie to put it in before too long.
Rating **** 1/2
Total Time 63:13
Review copyright (c) 1999 James Southall