Album running time
Artwork copyright (c) 1998 Columbia
Pictures Indistries, Inc; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall
Album running time
Artwork copyright (c) 1998 Columbia Pictures Indistries, Inc; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall
Basil Poledouris hasn't scored many films just lately, and virtually all of the ones he has scored in the last five years or so are absolute drivel. He seems to be in danger of doing a Bruce Broughton and disappearing almost entirely. One of the last high(ish)-profile films he scored was Bille August's version of Les Miserables in 1998, starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush. It came and went without really troubling monitors of box office receipts.
Poledouris's early career was made up of epic, sweeping scores of very high quality and great excitement; but he gradually seemed to tire of that (pretty understandably) and has revisited the style only very rarely; he'd done it just before Les Miserables in fact, on Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers. Coupled with the fact that his great friend, the orchestrator Greig McRtichie, had just passed away, and the grim subject-matter of the film, Poledouris's score is incredibly sombre and depressing.
It reminds me in many ways of James Horner's most recent, let's-bang-the-audience-over-the-head-with-the-earnestness scores like Enemy at the Gates. Aside from a brief promise of a main theme from time to time (which sounds almost like Hunt for Red October, almost like Starship Troopers, but far too generic to particularly please) this music is relentlessly dour and downbeat. I can see how there may be an audience for this sort of thing, but anyone expecting one of Poledouris's soaring masterpieces will be left sorely disappointed.
Curiously, on the album the score is split into just four lengthy tracks - though ignore the track times on the album packaging which imply the CD is 15 minutes longer than it actually is (aren't there laws against that sort of thing!?) This is probably a reasonable way of presenting the music, given how unchanging and repetitive it is. Of the four suites, only "Paris" contains bits that aren't likely to make you want to slit your wrists, featuring as it does some genuinely pleasant (if entirely unmemorable) passages.
I like Poledouris and I wish he would get more high-quality work, but this is a really overrated album.
Valjean's Journey (6:09)
The Barricades (11:15)