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MAF 7027D

Artwork copyright (c) 1992 TriStar Pictures, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Unusual, effectively atmospheric synth score from Horner


An excellent film, Michael Apted's Thunderheart sees Val Kilmer give probably his best performance, as an FBI agent with some American Indian heritage caught with a conflict of interest when he is called upon to investigate some suspicious events on a Sioux reservation.  (The Sioux were all the rage at the time, in the wake of Dances with Wolves.)  Apted is a very good director who has worked with an array of fine film composers (John Barry, Maurice Jarre, David Arnold, Mark Isham, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri) and Thunderheart marked his third collaboration with James Horner, coming shortly after the largely-fogotten Class Action and a while after the slightly-less-forgotten Gorky Park.

For a composer never shy to emphasise in a big way any element of ethnicity in a film, it was somewhat inevitable that Horner would build some Native American music into his score, though he did it in a far more subtle and intelligent way than these things are usually done, taking a bold approach towards the music.  Admittedly, a few times the score descends into more predictable "dancing around the teepee" fare, but for the most part Horner offers only the subtlest ethnic percussion and voices to accompany a virtually entirely-synthesised score.  It's an approach which works very well indeed within the film, creating a wonderful atmosphere and playing in perfect harmony with the visuals, but frequently doesn't work so well away from the film.  Indeed, for the first half hour (or so), the album plays away without very much happening at all.  

The synth textures are just not particularly interesting away from the film, and the occasional slices of electronic action music ("Jimmy's Escape", "The Goons") sound a bit too dated and almost as if they should be in 48 Hours.  For all those problems, however, the album is almost redeemed by the last two tracks.  "Run for the Stronghold" is a particularly dramatic piece, the first on the album which sees Horner unleashing more obvious emotions; and "This Land is Not for Sale", the lengthy end credit piece, presents a moving and chillingly effective theme for the film, eventually morphing into a kaleidoscopic, dizzying synthesised end to the piece in which Horner's music seems to swirl its way around the listener like an old Saul Bass opening credits sequence.  Despite this, the album remains a somewhat frustrating listen: for all the music's obvious qualities, and the mesmerising way it works in the film, it really doesn't make a very interesting album. 

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  1. Main Title (2:10)
  2. The Oglala Sioux (2:35)
  3. Jimmy's Escape (3:33)
  4. Proud Nation (1:56)
  5. Evidence (1:39)
  6. First Vision (1:13)
  7. Ghost Dance (3:13)
  8. The Goons (2:33)
  9. Medicine Man (1:00)
  10. My People, Wounded Knee (4:28)
  11. Thunder Heart (5:25)
  12. Run for the Stronghold (5:20)
  13. This Land is Not for Sale (8:14)