“Casino Royale” was a revelation and the thunderous reboot of the James Bond franchise. As it stands right now that’s still my favorite Bond movie and my favorite Bond score. It was tough for both Daniel Craig and David Arnold as composer to follow that up in “Quantum of solace”. This second movie was a direct sequel where James Bond seeks revenge for the death of his lover from the first film. Sadly it’s the final David Arnold Bond score to date. I still hope he will come back. Anyway the premises for this score weren’t very encouraging when I heard the main theme, which sounded as far from the Bond sound as possible. It lacked heart or any melodic line for me. Thankfully it doesn’t feature very much in the score.
David Arnold intelligently opens this score in a way that reminds me that this is just picking up where something else left off. Time to get out has a suspenseful first minute before exploding with the action and it feels like we never left. Interesting that “I never left” is the title of the final cue of this score. It’s David Arnold’s statement as much as James Bond’s. Too bad he did leave afterwards. I am taking a special enjoyment in this score knowing it’s the last of its kind. I admire Arnold because his Bond music rarely lost steam for 11 years and “Quantum of Solace” is just as exciting as “Tomorrow never dies” was back in the beginning. The balance between orchestral and electronic is restored and it works again as it should. I don’t care that much for the tribal inspired cues for the Haiti scenes though.
It’s interesting to have a love theme in a score like this without Bond involved. In fact his quest for revenge for Vesper made him cold and driven in this movie and there’s not much fooling around. So we get a love theme for the villain and the girl in “Greene and Camille”. The theme sounds like a snake slithering through the branches of a tree. The action cues are a little more complex and layered. Even if I might be in the mood for more straightforward action I can understand the need for “Pursuit at Port au Prince” to sound like this. The score seems to be more focused on the plot rather than on the fireworks. The music hides and sneaks up on you rather than come at you full force.
And in the middle of the score “Vesper” legendary theme from “Casino Royale” returns in a haunting form: “What’s keeping you awake” is a real treat for me as a fan of the previous score and connects the sequel with the beginning. It’s Vesper meets Twin Peaks in terms of impact, sadness, depth and intensity. Slowly the quieter, more emotional movies get the best of this score and I forget all about the action parts. I am more connected with pieces like “Forgive yourself” and “Camille’s story”. All the inserts of Vesper’s theme make every cue they appear on sound magical and bring flashbacks as if these were my own heavy memories.
The rest, as they say, is history. From “Target terminated” until the end of the score David Arnold goes on a rampaging power trip which forever earns him a spot in the film music history pantheon. He finishes his Bond tenure as boldly and strong as he had begun it. “Target terminated” and “Perla de las Dunas” (a visually stunning end to the movie as well) are among the best he has ever written. Add to that the powerfully emotional “Camille’s story” and another few painful and haunting flashbacks as Vesper’s story finally ends and you get a score that delivers on all counts. I’m still waiting for David Arnold to return to the franchise. Or to film scoring in general. For me he’s in the top 3 action music composers ever.
Cue rating: 81 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 27 / 62
Album excellence: 44
Time To Get Out
What’s Keeping You Awake
Have You Ever Killed Someone?
Perla De Las Dunas
The Dead Don’t Care About Vengeance
I Never Left