- Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams
- Madison Gate Records / 2012 / 56:22
I think a lot of people were surprised by Len Wiseman’s seemingly-unnecessary remake of Total Recall in that they didn’t hate it – many went into the film expecting little but finding that actually, it’s OK. The same could probably be said for the score, by Harry Gregson-Williams. Following in the footsteps of Jerry Goldsmith is a pretty thankless task for any film composer (no matter what you do, the film music fans are unlikely to be forgiving) but he certainly didn’t disgrace himself. Film music has changed a lot since 1990, particularly in big Hollywood action films – whereas back then it was acceptable for a score to have a real personality of its own and through extension give the film some real personality, these days the role of music is more usually to provide ambient support. Atmosphere’s the key, not personality. Narrative drive is something usually forbidden from the score (a lot of bad action films were made to seem a lot better in the 1980s and 90s through their music; something much rarer today, showing the lack of appreciation of a lot of filmmakers over exactly what a good score could do for their films).
Gregson-Williams somewhat predictably offers what is in many ways an extension of the sound he developed on various Tony Scott thrillers, and while it’s no masterpiece, this score is far more enjoyable than any of them. Things don’t get off to the best start in “The Dream” (the vaguely Goldsmithian two-note rising motif notwithstanding) but after that they pick up considerably in what is virtually constant action music. The contribution of the electronica group Hybrid won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the composer does well to integrate that with his more orchestral music. A theme of sorts appears in the second track, “The Fall”, and it’s a shame he couldn’t develop that further; but particularly in the second half of the album, much of the music is pretty engaging. The biggest shame is that – in stark contrast with the score with which everyone will inevitably compare this – the music just doesn’t have a big personality – it’s designed to sit in the background within the film, so it just ends up sitting in the background away from it too, not able to create enough of an impression. Still – particularly when the orchestra is cranked up a bit, like in the string ostinati that are more Brian Tyler than the usual John Powell, though his influence is all over the percussion sound – and in the rare moments of reflection, like the beautiful “The Vault” – there is quality to be found. At almost an hour, the album’s twice as long as it needs to be, but it’s better than a lot of people would have you believe – just a shame that (in common with almost all music for similar films of the last decade or so) it couldn’t be bolder in its convictions and less afraid to play a leading role, not just a supporting one. ***