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Artwork copyright (c) 2003 Paramount Pictures; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Rejected, but no reject


Sadly, the great Jerry Goldsmith's penultimate movie score was rejected and not used in the film.  The project had seemed so right for him as well: his long collaboration with Michael Crichton (who wrote the Timeline novel) had always produced fruitful results, and his previous collaboration with director Richard Donner resulted in his Oscar-winning music for The Omen.  Exactly why the music wasn't used has been the subject of much speculation - Donner himself says that he simply changed his mind after agreeing with the composer what the music should be like and didn't think it fair for him to have to do it again; elsewhere it has been reported that the movie was re-edited so much after Goldsmith's score was recorded he just got fed up and didn't want to rewrite it any more.  Whatever the truth may be, it ended up not being used, and the movie ended up stinking anyway (despite a fine replacement score from Brian Tyler which, amazingly and bizarrely, seems to have been composed with an almost identical approach to that employed by Goldsmith), despite Crichton's novel being so inherently filmic that it would seem to be more difficult to turn it into a bad film than a good one.

If I were to compare the music with just one other Goldsmith score, then that would be Star Trek Nemesis, a fine score but one which attracted surprising (and frequently vitriolic) criticism in various quarters.  It shares that score's generally dark tone and hard-wrought action music - this is not a bright and breezy combination of Lionheart and First Knight that many seemed to be expecting.  Indeed, much of the action music has a clear precedent in another generally-disliked score by the composer, Chain Reaction, though it is perhaps a little more sustained and involving.  The album opens in a very similar style to Nemesis with "The Dig", which for three of its four minute running time slowly builds and builds and, just when you wonder whether it's actually building to anything or not, it explodes into life with a brief burst of exciting action - that's when you know the composer's in top form.

"Cornflakes" introduces the love theme, and a fine one it is at that.  Not as sweeping as some from the composer, it nevertheless leaves quite an impression, and its later arrangement in the first half of the lengthy "Move On" is truly gorgeous.  In between those tracks is a fair amount of action material, in typical martial style, with "No Pain", "The Rooftop" and "A Hole in the Wall" rarely letting the thrills go.  A notable ingredient is a synthesised horn sound which at first sounds very odd indeed, but after a while seems like an entirely organic extension of the orchestra and is ideal for the score.  The second half of the aforementioned "Move On" is another superb piece, full of excitement and thrills.

For all those thrills, though, the final three tracks (covering just over a quarter of an hour) are truly spectacular, as thrilling a sequence of action music as has been written for a movie this decade.  The highlight is undoubtedly "Prepare for Battle / Victory for Us", an enormous and brilliant piece of music.  It will surely have all the composer's many, many fans sitting on the edge of their seats in awe.  After that, the brief but rousing reprise of the love theme in the finale "To My Friends" seems somehow to not just be a glorious climax to this great score, but to a great career.

Goldsmith himself thought that too much of his music was out there on CD, which just goes to show how pleased he had been with Timeline because he asked his friend and frequent collaborator Robert Townson of Varese Sarabande to make sure it got released for his fans to hear.  I doubt that anyone knew at that time that it would be the last "new" music we would ever get to hear from the composer.  So far the album is only available to buy directly from Varese's website, but it will be available in stores shortly.  It is a spectacular CD in all respects - not only for the wonderful music, but the cavernous sound produced by engineer Bruce Botnick.  It is a hybrid disc mastered in SACD for those that have the capability, but playable on regular CD players as well - and sounds simply amazing.  Credit should go to all involved.  Perhaps it can't be considered as one of Goldsmith's very finest scores, but that is only because of the sheer quality of what came before it, and I very much doubt that a more impressive action score will be heard in a very long time indeed.  Much praise is deserved by everyone who worked on the release.

The death of Mr Goldsmith has left a gaping hole in the world of film music which will likely never be filled.  No other composer has ever been able to quite match him for creating thrills through action music, as Timeline amply demonstrates.  As exciting as Timeline is, it is very difficult to listen to it without feeling a certain sadness and reflecting on the fact that it is probably the last film score which will ever be written that sounds quite like this, with the propulsive, rhythmic action music actually being driven by strong melody and intelligent orchestration, never just falling back on the tired tricks of synthesised percussion and blaring horns.  I know this sort of thing will never be embraced by the wider music community, but for film score enthusiasts there is really nothing quite like the thrill of hearing Goldsmith go in full flow.  

Forgive the self-indulgence of what follows, but I was fortunate enough to see Mr Goldsmith conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in concert on numerous occasions and to see him up there waving his baton at an orchestra in exciting pieces from Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, First Knight, The Wind and the Lion, Capricorn One, Patton, The Sand Pebbles, Chinatown, Alien, The Blue Max, Logan's Run, Wild Rovers - what a body of work - truly a joy and it leaves me desperately sad that it can never happen again.  He was a film composer like no other, never content to simply score what everyone could already see, always trying to add something that wasn't already there, whether working on a classic or something truly risible.  His gifts as a melodic tunesmith have never been given their due, but the variety of the themes he wrote over his long career - and the sheer volume of them - is greater than any other film composer.  He is also arguably the only composer able to comfortably work in any genre of film imaginable.  He was a film composer without peer, a shining example to anyone else working in the field.  Fortunately, the music will last forever.


  1. The Dig (4:08)
  2. Cornflakes (2:01)
  3. No Pain (3:08)
  4. To Castlegard (2:35)
  5. Find Marek (1:54)
  6. The Rooftop (4:18)
  7. A Hole in the Wall (2:25)
  8. Move On (6:55)
  9. Be Careful (1:25)
  10. Ambushed (1:10)
  11. Setting Up (2:10)
  12. Greek Fire / Light the Arrows (2:32)
  13. Prepare for Battle / Victory for Us (11:10)
  14. To My Friends (1:40)