Soundtrack review: James Bond – Spectre (Thomas Newman – 2015)
Whenever a new James Bond movie and score come out I’m afraid I will have too many thoughts and I will talk too little about the music. This franchise means so much to me and I am very passionate about it. Now that the movies have recovered from the mess of the Brosnan area, ironically my worries have become solely about the music. I am a big David Arnold fan and I still haven’t gotten over his departure from the series. I am a big Thomas Newman fan but I don’t think he’s right for Bond. Or, should I say, Skyfall made me think that. I didn’t like that score, it didn’t have the Bond spirit. Now he’s back and until a week before the release this was the first Bond score I actually wasn’t excited about. One of my favorite moments of the year had lost its shine. But then something happened, in the last moment. I heard Newman’s “Bridge of spies” and my faith was restored. That score was thick and dark and … different. So I come into “Spectre” with renewed hope.
Then there’s the vocal theme… as always, one of the most important parts of the Bond system. With “Skyfall” Adele set a standard so high that no matter who came to write for Specter, short of Elvis’ resurrection, it wouldn’t have been good enough. And then Sam Smith, already a controversial figure for his Tom Petty troubles, comes in and says he recorded the theme in 20 minutes, insulting the intelligence of everyone in the music business and minimizing the efforts of the countless members of this team who worked for editing, polishing, arranging… Anyway, to my surprise, despite this entire backlash from the press and fans… I discovered that “The writing’s on the wall” is actually an excellent Bond theme. The instrumental part is to die for and even the low key and depressing musings of Sam Smith grow on me.
I can’t wait for the movie and I can’t wait to hear the music in context. But also I am not patient enough to wait to hear the score for the first time there, so I wanted to grab it fresh on release morning. The opening makes me instantly think of the John Barry scores from the 60s. “Los muertos vivos estan” has that wonderful nostalgic combination of the original Bond theme and Latin guitars that’s already part of Bond legend for me. Well played, Mr. Newman! Let’s not leave this place. I’m already getting goose bumps.
The composer does here exactly what he didn’t do in Skyfall: weave the Bond original theme and that sound in the fabric of his score. I listen to a misty and mysterious cue like “The eternal city” and I know that it belongs on a James Bond score. It has the darkness, the astuteness this character needs and it also has motifs that tie it firmly to the franchise. No, I don’t actually have a checklist of things I need to hear in a Bond score to be happy but after Skyfall I am just happy to be home again.
I’m also enjoying the fact that the year of minimalism is touching this score as well with just enough silent moments as to give it meaning. The theme for Monica Belucci’s character “Donna Lucia” is one that belongs in the pantheon of Bond girls themes with Elektra or the other romantic moments that are still a joy to hear after all these years. The other Bond girl Madeline gets an even sweeter theme.
The action moments are fast and spectacular and they make me excited about the movie. “Backfire” is the first one and it’s a spectacle or adrenaline. And of course, at the end of it, that little stamp that reminds us we are in the James Bond world, one of those few seconds orchestral inserts stemmed from the original theme. “Snow plane” explodes in wonderful, epic orchestral action that confirms the state of grace Thomas Newman is in.
Complete with the spectacular and rich instrumental version of the vocal theme which shows me even more that on this level it’s one of the best ever (no checklist, I promise) “Spectre” is a true James Bond score worthy to stand in the temple built by John Barry and David Arnold. All fans should revel in this one and I’m sure this composition will please even film music fans that are not invested in the franchise. The week of Thomas Newman’s 60th birthday was guarded at both ends by two of his best scores ever. That’s something to remember!
Cue rating: 94 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 56 / 80
Album excellence: 70%
Los Muertos Vivos Estan (featuring Tambuco)
|The Eternal City|
|Kite In A Hurricane|
|Writing’s On The Wall (Instrumental)|
|Day Of The Dead (featuring Tambuco)|