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Solid action score is an over-the-top blast

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LKS 340212

Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Universal Studios.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.

I doubt that I would ever be persuaded to go and see a film based solely on its trailer, but the reverse certainly applies (I mean that I would be persuaded to a avoid a film at all costs based solely on its trailer, not that I would never be persuaded to go and see a trailer based solely on the film - though that is also true).  Clear?  Anyway, the point of that (fairly obviously) is that after watching the 60 seconds (or whatever) that made up the trailer for Wanted, I decided I would have to go against an oath I had solemnly declared some years earlier - to watch anything and everything that exposes me to the delights of Angelina Jolie.  Now, as anyone who is familiar with 12th century Icelandic saga will attest (and I assume that is most readers of this website), oaths are there to be deoathed providing there is good reason to do so; and there is.

But who cares about the ridiculous-looking film - there's a new Danny Elfman score to enjoy.  Not only that, it's another good one - 2008 is turning out to be a good year for him, with the excellent Standard Operating Procedure already under his belt, and now the best action score to come along in a while.  One of the best things about these over-stylised action movies is that sometimes the directors let the excesses of production seep over into gloriously creative, spellbinding musical scores (and the proof of the pudding is for once not in the eating, but in The Matrix sequels).  

This fine album opens with a rarity, a new Elfman rock song, penned for the film - "The Little Things" doesn't break much new ground, but it's nice to hear his talents in that arena one more time.  The score opens with the sensational "Success Montage" - the vaguely baroque-sounding main theme is startling, a long-lined treat from a composer known for anything but - beautifully-executed music, a surprise and a treat.  "Fraternity Suite" brings in some chorus for a slightly religioso feel - you get the distinct impression that this is Elfman being able to express himself in ways he's been waiting to do on an action film for a long time.  There's just top-notch action music all over the place - shades of Spiderman in "Wesley's Office Life" and "Fox's Story", perhaps a bit of Hulk elsewhere, but only in the subtlest way, and only in a way that reminds you just how good Elfman can be when he's on song.  A bit like Elliot Goldenthal, he's a composer who needs a certain type of director and certain type of film to really thrive (he's not a McScorer who can throw any movie through his Film Scoring Algorithm and come out with a sanitised result to please the masses) - unlike Goldenthal, he mixes in plenty of films which don't appear to fit that certain type, but fortunately he finds many that do - and here's a perfect one, no matter what the film's flaws in other ways might be.

Actually it's really quite a straight action score when it comes down to it - there are few pauses for breath (save for the occasional - but inevitable - swelling of strings towards the end), but the unusual clarity in orchestration means few are needed - it just so happens that the composer found a film which is the perfect fit for his outlandish tendencies.  With nary an additional composer nor score overproducer in sight, Elfman proves that you can write a fun score for a summer blockbuster which doesn't insist you must have an IQ less than your shoe size to enjoy.  I was beginning to wonder if we'd seen the end of them - but someone out there in film music land has evidently decided the production line approach doesn't always have to hold.  I don't know about you, but I rather suspect they've finally been spending a little quality time with the Snorri Sturluson anthology their grandma gave them years ago and doing a fair bit of deoathing.


  1. The Little Things Danny Elfman (3:26)
  2. Success Montage (3:31)
  3. Fraternity Suite (3:28)
  4. Wesley's Office Life (5:15)
  5. The Scheme (1:44)
  6. Fox in Control (2:16)
  7. Welcome to the Fraternity (4:29)
  8. Fox's Story (3:29)
  9. Exterminator Beat (2:52)
  10. Rats (3:28)
  11. The Train (3:58)
  12. Revenge (4:33)
  13. Fox's Decision (2:29)
  14. Breaking the Code (1:21)
  15. Fate (1:46)