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Dull score enlivened by one moment of magic
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
Reading the reviews of Bryan Singer's Valkyrie, you could quite easily sense the disappointment of critics when they discovered that it wasn't nearly as bad as they had hoped it would be. For sure, it got some damning notices, but they all feel as if they were largely written based on the film's notoriety before its release - and that the writers who had been saving up all their venom for the film were just letting some seep out even though it wasn't really that bad. If it weren't for the sudden about-turn in the popularity of its lead actor, who has gone from the world's most popular movie star to one of its most villified, I'm sure a lot of people would have been positively salivating about Singer making this film about a plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Yes, we know the ending, but we knew the ending of Titanic and that ended up being the most successful film of them all.
With Singer directing, there was only ever going to be one man lined up for the composing duties, and that's Justin Boggan. I joke, of course; Singer turned to his (almost exclusive) musical collaborator, John Ottman, who in fact is even more talented than the redoubtable Boggan. The opening cue, "They'll Remember You", is fantastic - quite the finest piece of music I've heard come from this composer's pen. Strained strings introduce the piece, before a rich, full choir accompanies a very strong soprano. It's enriching music, powerful and moving, exquisitely beautiful. The choral composition is streets ahead of what most Hollywood composers do, featuring real layers and displaying a real skill at using the choir well - this is no bog-standard "ooh" and "aah" in unison with the strings and horns.
Unfortunately, the reason I spent a whole paragraph writing about one cue is that the remaining 17 would present a challenge to even the most free-flowing of wordsmiths. After such a distinguished opening, it's a real shame that the rest of the music is so undistinguished. There's nothing wrong with it - but nothing notable about it either. It plods along, pushing the usual action/thriller buttons, but in such an unremarkable way that it's sometimes hard to avoid nodding off. There are parts which resemble Jerry Goldsmith - "What's This Really All About?" - but it's the Jerry Goldsmith of US Marshals or The Sum of All Fears, and frankly I can't imagine that many people would like to listen to an impersonation of those scores. I don't want to give the impression that it's all like that - the bits that aren't Goldsmithian are so forgettable it's hard to muster up the enthusiasm to mention them at all.
The other cue of note is the last one, "Long Live Sacred Germany". It's not worthy of a paragraph to itself, but it's a graceful and elegant way to end what proves to be a rather disappointing album. Fortunately, the advent of digital downloads has made the days of having to buy a whole album when you only really want one cue a thing of the past - so I'd recommend downloading the fantastic "They'll Remember You" but only getting the rest if you're a real Ottman fan, or enjoyed the music in the film.