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Soundtrack review: Undercover (Vince Pope – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Undercover (Vince Pope – 2016)


“Undercover” is a six-part BBC television drama series co-produced with BBC America which was first broadcast beginning 3 April 2016. Undercover follows the lives and family of Maya Cobbina, a British lawyer conducting a long-term legal fight to prove the innocence of US death row inmate Rudy Jones, and her husband Nick Johnson. After Cobbina is head-hunted for the position of Director of Public Prosecutions, her husband’s past – and the circumstances under which the couple first met twenty years earlier – comes back to haunt him. Vince Pope wrote the score.

We have been spoiled with British TV drama scores over the past couple of years and I’m always eager to discover something new from this genre. The opening cue “Life and death” could work very well as the opening credits for this story. I heard two different moods coming together: a cello motif in the background and a relentless ticking that comes over it as if to show me that a secret hides behind a determined front.

“The lights go out” is where that string motif is further explored and developed and I discover it is accompanied by and equally deep and sad piano section. I can feel all the sorrow in this simple but intense cue; it’s the kind of piece which leaves an echo inside me. A cue like this is in total contradiction with action moments like “He’s not dead”. There’s always some sort of string being strung as if to give the score a certain identity. Vince Pope alternates these two sounds and for me the quieter pieces are more compelling that the action ones. I just love it when the strings are let loose and start pouring the emotion like in the fascinating “Through the gates”.

I like this score because the composer makes almost every cue feel like it’s hiding something. I feel like replaying some of them just to further explore what lies beneath. There’s a special kind of darkness in the music; even when it gets very minimalistic (“Dad’s dying” or “Behind bars”)  I still get the feeling of a blanket that if pulled will reveal much more.

“Undercover” also feels personal and intimate. It never gets loud and to me the abundance of emotions and even the frantic pace of the action cues tell me the music explores the characters from inside. Besides, if I find a dark and minimalistic score where piano and strings play hide and seek I am a happy film music fan. Those were my favorite part. Tell me what you thought of this one.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 15 / 45

Album excellence: 33%


The lights go out

Through The Gates
Behind Bars
Dads Dying
The Forrest
Whats Your Name?


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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