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Slightly dull suspense score does not show composer at his best
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
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Album cover copyright (c) 1990 Warner Bros. Pictures; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
There must have been a time when Harrison Ford had never played a family man in distress, beating the odds to make sure things were OK for him and his folks. I'm not sure I was alive at that time. In Presumed Innocent, his ex-girlfriend is dead and he's the prime suspect. With a super cast (Raul Julia, Brian Dennehy, Greta Scacchi, John Spencer) and a pre-eminent director (Alan J. Pakula), the film is very good. It marked the director's first and only collaboration with composer John Williams.
I'm very much of the opinion that there are few things that Williams can't do better than just about anyone - but I'm really not sure that adult-themed thrillers are amongst those things. Pakula's most famous collaboration came with the late Michael Small on films like Klute and The Parallax View (and of course, there was the famous David Shire score for the electrifying All the President's Men) and Williams approached this score in very much the same way that Small might, with taut music designed to heighten suspense and provide a hypnotic atmosphere. He succeeds to an extent, but I'm not sure he succeeded as well as Small would have done.
The score's strongest aspect (by far) is its main title piece, where the powerful main theme is unleashed. Even here not everything is perfect - the electronics cheapen it, almost making it sound like 1980s tv movie stuff - but it's got Williams trademarks all over it otherwise, and is decent stuff. Elsewhere, there's a little piece called "Family Life" which is very light and very pleasant; the warm, impressive "Case Dismissed"; a genuine, rare injection of emotion in the piercing strings of "The Basement Scene"; and occasionally some reasonable suspense music.
The main body of the score, though, is mostly piano doodling and synth stings with occasional appearances of the main theme here and there. As I said, it's quite effective at creating a mood (and very effective at sustaining it) but in terms of listening pleasure, this is not one of Williams's finer efforts. As usual, there is enough of interest here to make it worth getting for Williams fans, but it's one of his less interesting albums overall, dragging on a bit even though it's less than 45 minutes long.