Visit the Movie Wave Store | Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer | Contact me
Engaging African thriller score from JNH
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
JAMES NEWTON HOWARD
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Warner Bros.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
After The Last Samurai, director Edward Zwick seems to have rediscovered his touch, if reviews of Blood Diamond are anythiing to go by. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a mercenary in Sierra Leone who offers to help Djimon Hounsou find his kidnapped son in return for being given a valuable diamond. Zwick has had some good scores for his films over the years, though not really since leaving James Horner behind him - it's probably best not to mention The Siege, and the ludicrous Samurai was made to seem even worse by Hans Zimmer's over-sincere music. This time round, the director turned to James Newton Howard.
Since an African Music Supervisor was required, a coin was tossed and since heads came up, it's George Acogny (tails, and it would have been Lebo M) and Acogny's influence is all over the main title piece, a gently noble song which is very attractive. There's a hint of Howard's Dinosaur (music supervisor: Lebo M) about "Crossing the Bridge", with its driving theme, before the score's finest asset first rears its head - the action music. In "Village Attack" and "Ruf Kidnaps Dia" it is quite dark and unforgiving, almost like a watered-down version of Black Hawk Down (though sadly never quite so chaotic); but ironically, it's the more standard Zimmer action music which seems to be the driving influence later on, with the centrepiece "Fall of Freetown" sounding like it might come from The Peacemaker or something. Howard pulls it off with great style, though. Perhaps the pick is "Diamond Mine Bombed", featuring some desperately exciting music amongst the finest Howard's ever done.
Elsewhere, there's a passionate theme of loss and love first heard fully in "Solomon Finds Family" (and later in "Your Mother Loves You"), to which Howard adds a beautifully sincere-sounding dimension. It's a shame that this side of the music isn't explored a little more (though I guess the film must not have allowed the opportunity). The other "softer" music is quite nice, but it's gentle pianos and ethnic flutes bring to mind Thomas Newman and only add to the slightly hodge-podge feel about the score (though this isn't a big issue - while Howard's influences are clear, he does blend the different styles together rather well).
After about 50 minutes of score come three songs - the lovely "Ankala" sung by a chorus of refugees, with life and passion; the westernised rap song "Baai", sung by Emmanuel Jai and Abdel Gadir Salim; and the virtually-indescribable "When Da Dawgs Come Out to Play", which sounds like the noise you might hear if 25 goats accidentally fell onto a quickly-rotating, huge blade. Despite this, it's easy to recommend the album; Howard's a good choice to compose this sort of thing (though, as is often the case, it would be wonderful if he put a bit more of his own personality into the music rather than making it sound like a mixture of others').