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WE ARE MARSHALL
Sports drama score tries a bit too hard to not overdo things
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Warner Bros.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A true story about a university whose football team was tragically wiped out in a plane crash, and its subsequent attempts to rebuild, We Are Marshall has all the elements that ought to make it a rousing success, and the film has attracted generally positive reviews. It's a bit of a change of scenery for Charlie's Angels director McG (who is so famous, they named the world's largest cricket stadium after him) and, being a sports movie released this decade, the 28th amendment to the United States Constitution dictates that it must be scored by Trevor Rabin. However, the filmmakers have run the risk of falling foul of the authorities by employing a different composer, in this case Christophe Beck.
The score begins much as you might expect, with a big theme presented in the first track (though it's not quite so big as it could be - more on this, later) and some in-game rousing music in the second, "Marshall v East Carolina". Things obviously take on a different tone in "Breaking News" and the couple of pieces immediately subsequent to it, "Our Boys' Plane" and "Aftermath", with very sombre music reflecting the dreadful events. It's thoughtfully done stuff, Beck managing to avoid over-sentimentalising the events.
From then on, the mission is to build up again and, ultimately, see heroism triumph in adversity. Here, Beck tries extremely hard not to over-egg the pudding, seemingly reigning himself in very slightly and not allowing the usual kind of flag-waving music which would accompany a film like this. Unfortunately, it's almost as if he's trying too hard - he's doing all the usual stuff, but not quite to the extent that most scores do, in a vain effort to avoid being accused of following the cliches. The music ends up being neither one thing nor the other - it's not one of those guilty-pleasure type scores whose enthusiasm and lack of restraint are the very things that make them so enjoyable; but nor is it something so different as to be fascinating for that reason. It's caught somewhere in between. Beck does finally let loose in "Second Half", towards the album's conclusion, and that's a great, dark piece, which sounds like it comes from some kind of action thriller.
The main theme, which is used exhaustively, is quite noble and heroic, but not particularly memorable, which is another problem; and the distinctly Mark Isham-style orchestration in which it's presented doesn't quite give it the heroic tone it might otherwise have, save for the major-key triumphalism of the grand finale, "Touchdown". I feel almost guilty for not liking We Are Marshall more than I do - it is full of the best intentions, and there's nothing particularly wrong with it, but I can't avoid the fact that it's a real slog to make it through all 55 minutes, despite the quality of some cues.