Film scores Franchises

Soundtrack review: James Bond – Skyfall (Thomas Newman – 2012)

skyfall

When “Skyfall” was announced it was one of the most anticipated movies for me. The first two Daniel Craig Bond films had been spectacular, he had breathed new life in the franchise and I was ready for another great ride. Sam Mendes, the director of “American Beauty” and “Road to perdition” had taken the helm and this was another reason to get excited. Then the first frown came… He brought his favorite composer Thomas Newman to score. He is also one of my favorites but his sound felt light years away from what a Bond movie asked for and besides I was a huge fan of David Arnold’s previous compositions for the series. As it turns out, the movie was as a disappointment to me as big as the expectations had been. It was nothing more than a “Home alone” clone with no credible villain and an inexistent Bond girl. I had a similar reaction to the score back then, and now I am revisiting it for my review. Maybe I will feel differently. As always, the first mention is for the Bond vocal theme and this is where ”Skyfall” ranks among the best ever. Adele’s Academy Award winning composition is one of my favorite Bond themes ever and haven’t gotten tired of it yet. Incidentally this magnificent song also played over the best Bond opening sequence ever.

I remember what kind of pushed me away from this score to begin with; the cue for the opening chase “Grand Bazaar, Istanbul” is too thin for a Bond opening. It’s a normal track full of electronic inserts but not the kind that made the David Arnold scores so brilliant. Generic, forgettable electronic inserts for a cue that also lacks emotion and the excitement of a bombastic Bond opening. Emotion appears in the theme for “Severine”, the Bond girl of the first girlless Bond movie. “Brave new world” is the first Bond sounding cue of “Skyfall”.

Once the rough ending is out of the way I start warming up to “Skyfall”. I enjoy the atmospheric parts of “Jellyfish” or the smooth unanswered questions in “Modigliani”. I enjoy “Someone usually dies” and “Komodo dragon” because they are more exciting than the movie scenes they were made for. Thomas Newman chose to keep his Bond score hiding in the shadows and sometimes it works very well other times I don’t even notice the music. I feel as if I need to search for moments when I enjoy this score instead of the music actively pursuing me.

Some of the exciting moments of this score stop abruptly and cues take strange turns. The second I find something to cling to, a motif, something, it slips from my grasp. I try to find moments to like but I keep having these three names in the back of my head: Bond, Barry, Arnold and I just get frustrated listening to what’s happening now. I loved Thomas Newman because of his minimalistic and poignant style, melodic to the fullest. I loved James Bond scores for their exciting action moments and intense emotional pieces, for its even bombastic sound sometimes. This score isn’t classical Thomas Newman and is far away from the Bond legacy, so I just couldn’t connect with it. It was a normal, generic and forgettable action score. I hope things will improve with Spectre…

Cue rating: 74 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 9 / 82

Album excellence: 11%

Highlights:

Skyfall

Severine

Brave New WorldModigliani

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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