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Gritty Elfman action music doesn't do much away from the film
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Universal Studios; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A thriller about an FBI team sent into Saudi Arabia to track a terrorist who blew up an American in Riyadh, The Kingdom is presented as a timely and provocative thriller; unfortunately, all I could do while watching the trailer was burst out laughing, because the sight of Jason Bateman (who's in this) in the Middle East reminded me of the episode of Arrested Development when Michael and Gob went to Iraq and the latter inadvertently got arrested after doing a Jesus-inspired magic trick called "Burning Bush", whose title was misinterpreted by the US troops. Anyway, that doesn't have much relevance here.
The Kingdom is, I was surprised to discover, Danny Elfman's first score for a film designed for adults since 2003's Big Fish - and by the sound of things, he bought himself a new sample library to celebrate. Drum loops are everywhere - it's fair to say that if you're a fan of them, you might need to reinforce your underwear while listening to this. There's a bit of orchestra hanging around somewhere underneath it all in the opening title piece, but that's not what this is about - Elfman's aiming for a driving, gritty dynamic, and he creates it efficiently enough.
The score's sole concession to melody is a theme for electric guitar and synths, heard first in "Waiting" and later expanded on considerably for the seven-minute "Finale". It's actually pretty pleasant, if insubstantial. Most of what's in between is that gritty action music - it's vaguely reminiscent of Planet of the Apes and Proof of Life in terms of Elfman's past, but not really as interesting as either. At first glace, in fact, this music does not come off very well - but the initial impression that it's pretty lazy electronics is replaced somewhat upon subsequent airings, with a few hidden depths being revealed.
Elfman being Elfman, this is far more interesting than when most other composers attempt this kind of thing, but it still ends up being probably his weakest score album in a few years. It's good the way he maintains the momentum and fleshes his idea of insurgents being underscored with this kind of vaguely organic music which sounds like it's about to explode at any moment (but in the event never does); but I can't imagine too many will be sticking around for the full 40 minutes with any kind of regularity. All of the above should be tempered by the observation that it sounds like it would work brilliantly well in the film.