Film scores

Soundtrack review: Under suspicion (Christopher Gunning – 2016)

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“Under Suspicion” is a film from 1991, directed by Simon Moore and starring Liam Neeson, Laura San Giacomo and Kenneth Cranham. Neeson plays a former cop who now works as a private investigator whose main job it is to collect evidence of adultery for his clients who wish to settle divorce cases. Neeson’s character runs into trouble soon though when he orders his wife to go to a hotel room with a well-known painter in order to take photographs of the two and sell them to the wife of the painter. Things get nasty when the pair is shot death – and one of the prime suspects is: the investigator himself. Christopher Gunning wrote the score and Caldera Records released it in 2016.

Thrillers like this are not easy to score and they rarely need or provoke memorable compositions. A thriller needs the music to set the right atmosphere, to incite and worry the listener and viewer, to make him feel like he’s in the middle of whatever trouble happens on screen. More than maybe any other genre a thriller score should be closest to a game score: immersive and more of a companion than a leader. So as soon as this one starts I am very satisfied to hear the deceiving sounds of strings and horns buzzing together like a swarm of dangerous bees in a cue like “Murder”. The music is more complex than I first expected and the atmosphere is livelier. I like the feeling of improvisation which makes the action feel real. All three “Murder” cues are as intriguing as they are scary.

Listening to this album composed in 1991 makes me realize how thriller music has changed over the years. Nowadays directors rarely ask for more than a background composition and it hurts the standalone listening experience. “Under suspicion” is layered and has an unmistakable dose of noir in it which works very well. Every now and then I feel as if I’m listening to a score for a movie about a hard boiled private eye working in LA in the 50s. There’s always a sense of doom in the music, of an irreversible flow towards an unhappy ending as the strings create a slippery slope. I never feel safe listening to this score; the music gives me the impression of walking on a shaky bridge that’s always moving.

I like the romantic passages as they are inserted naturally as if I was looking at the same picture in a different light. “Suspicion and romance” is one of my favorite pieces from this score. I hear echoes of Ennio Morricone in the romantic motifs and that’s always a good thing.

“Under suspicion” is a surprisingly engaging score which stands on its own even without the support of the on screen images. It tells me a story that doesn’t need more to be rewarding. Christopher Gunning turned into Morricone for this one so definitely give it a listen.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 46

Album excellence: 31%

Highlights:

Murder

Murder Part 2

Suspicion and Romance

Another Murder

Knotty Questions

Tony and Angeline’s Doubts

 

 

 

 

 

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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