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Fine, serious music for Iraq tale
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Paramount Pictures; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
When I first saw this film's title I thought Hollywood had finally made the film I had been waiting for all through my professional life - the complex machinations which go into creating a reinsurance treaty designed to prevent an insurance company's claims in an individual year making it go out of business. Unfortunately it isn't that - instead it is about the controversial US policy of forcing members of the armed services to go back on duty after they return from serving, and in particular its effect on one soldier who returned triumphantly from the conflict in Iraq only to find out he was being forced to return.
The music, in common it would seem with most films released in 2008, is provided by John Powell. It could not be more different from Powell's recent, somewhat lightweight scores - having far more in common with his passionate but challenging United 93 (though this is not quite so concerned with being thoroughly earnest throughout). The score opens with "Michelle's House", a lonely trumpet solo providing a noble accompaniment to the more troubled synths-and-strings backdrop; and indeed it is that awkward atmosphere which runs through much of the music. It is an effective musical portrayal of modern-day despair, and a welcome change of pace from Powell.
It never descends into the kind of non-musical droning someone like James Newton Howard might provide for a film like this, and while it is certainly not as downright enjoyable as a listening experience as those more lightweight scores I mentioned, it's compelling in its own way and it's nice to hear Powell tackle something a little more serious than Jumper. There is a rock instrumental feel occasionally (particularly in the score's middle section - "The Base" and "Leaving Town" in particular) which injects some life at times when things just threaten to run out of steam. Another side to the music is presented in the moving piano solo piece "Theme for Peace", arresting in its simple directness.
There's an orchestra too, used sparingly, and most effectively in the score's standout piece, the finale "The Greatest Tragedy", which is vaguely reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's theme from The Last Castle in certain ways. An extension of the noble trumpet theme which opened the album introduces the beautiful seven-minute piece, which features some of the most expressive and emotional music heard from Powell so far in his career. It's a grand way to end a fine album - though it's one which many people will have a harder time enjoying than they might be used to from this composer.