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Soundtrack review: The Bourne Identity (TV) (Laurence Rosenthal – 1988)

My attachment to the Bourne stories and franchise is not at all related to the new movies. I wasn’t even excited when they decided to remake them (enjoyable as they were) because I felt the original TV movie had everything needed as a huge fan of the books. And I am a huge fan of the books. I spent hours reading all three of them and I remember quite a few times when I would just feel the need to reread some scene (usually the scene where Bourne kidnaps Marie) and I would end up hours later the same night reading over 100 pages of the adventure. I knew (and I still know) all the right places and scenes…The hotel, the back, the river, the names, everything. Drei Aplenhauser, Valois, Treadstone…Richard Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith played the characters just like I imagined them and “The Bourne identity” did the book justice. I was a visual representation of hours of imagined scenes and it was a feast for me. This was one of the bootleg video tapes I saw the most times back in the days.

Laurence Rosenthal wrote the score and the second the Hermannesque and “Cape fear” sounding “Main title” starts I instantly have in my head the opening scene which was so exciting and memorable to me when I was a kid, with the body washing out on a French shore and the drunken doctor removing the chip from under the unknown man’s skin. This scene had some sort of mystical value for me as a kid because it was so mysterious and the beginning of a story I really wanted to see.

When you listen to “Fishing Village” you will know what this score is about. The ominous and aggressive orchestral composition (again, the atmosphere sends me back to “Cape fear”) will grip your heart and get you invested in the score and the characters more than the John Powell action packed electronic pulses ever did. Laurence Rosenthal’s score has the heart the story demanded. The suspense and sense of unease never vanishes and I can close my eyes and imagine Jason and Marie running from assassins on dark alleys and I can remember the flashes of memories he gets from his previous life.

“Incident at the bank” builds up into an almost unbearably tense cue and you want to escape when you listen to it. The instrumentation is such that it feels like the brass or strings are alive and huge and they are coming at you from all directions. You really need to hide because the music isn’t constrained at all and it might change shape and come up behind you from any corner. I had the physical sensation of almost being choked at times during this score because of the way the cues are constructed. Just brilliant. Even the love theme “Jason and Marie” hides the feelings in a somber and serious old school orchestral melody in which the clearly separated piano and string pieces show the initial distance between the two characters. After all they met when he kidnapped her in order to escape the hotel…

“The Bourne identity” was made to be an 80’s spy story with all the respective quirks and rules and the original movie and score captured that perfectly. The new superhero Bourne movies are excellent and action movies but for me they don’t represent the original story as well as this 1988 TV movie does. This is still my go to Bourne movie and it will remain so. This is also my go to Bourne score because it sets the real, menacing and suspenseful mood the story needed. Laurence Rosenthal nailed what this movie was about and delivered one hour of old school orchestral goodness where the brass and the broken piano keys descend and rush after you in a why only Michael Giacchino in his “Lost” scores managed to replicate. This score is right on that sweet edge between thriller and horror and I’m happy that I got to revisit it.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 30 / 58

Album excellence: 51%

Highlights:

Main Title

Fishing Village

Incident At The Bank

Jason And Marie

The Red Door

Discovery

Chernak Dead

Abbott

Epilogue

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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