Home > Reviews > VERONICA GUERIN – Harry Gregson-Williams

VERONICA GUERIN – Harry Gregson-Williams

October 17, 2003 Leave a comment Go to comments

veronicaguerinOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Veronica Guerin was an investigative journalist who covered organized crime for Ireland’s best-selling newspaper, the Sunday Independent. A household name, she was famous not only for her fearless reporting about the murderers and drug lords of Dublin’s criminal underworld but also for her commitment to defending the public’s right to know. As a result of her work, she received numerous death threats, and was attacked numerous times. Guerin was murdered on June 26 1996, when a man on a motorcycle fired six rounds from a pistol at close range as she waited in her car at a traffic light just outside Dublin. Her death led to Ireland’s largest criminal investigation, resulting in over 150 arrests and a crackdown on organized-crime gangs that her assassins could never have foreseen. In November 1998, a man named Paul Ward, a Dublin drug dealer, was convicted of Guerin’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Guerin’s tragic true life story is brought to the silver screen by an unlikely director – Joel Schumacher, the man who killed Batman – but his film is surprisingly realistic and gritty, considering his taste for cinematic flamboyance. Cate Blanchett stars as the martyr to truth, and is supported by a bevy of Irish character actors, including Gerard McSorley, Ciaran Hinds, Brenda Fricker and Colin Farrell. Given that Jerry Bruckheimer is the film’s producer, it is unsurprising that a former Media Ventures alumnus was given the job of writing the score, but Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is a refreshing surprise – a low key dramatic score with an unmistakable Irish lilt.

Gregson-Williams is certainly one of film’s music’s rising stars, having thrown off the shackles of Zimmer and developed a voice of his own. Sinbad, Passionada and Phone Booth, his previous three scores, were all very different, jumping from full-orchestral action to Portuguese fado music, to urban electronica, and Veronica Guerin continues the trend. In recent years, the old Irish brogue has become something of a cliché, but to Gregson-Williams’s credit he manages to convey the history and romance of Ireland through traditional instruments, but brings it bang up to date by layering it all beneath a bevy of synthesizers. This is still the emerald isle, but a modern take, where cultures clash, dangerous things happen, and people die.

For the majority of the score, Gregson-Williams alternates between traditional Irish lilts, modern orchestral/synth mixes, and moody electronic drones, parts of which reminds greatly of the low-key music James Horner wrote for Patriot Games. However, unlike that score, Veronica Guerin has several standout cues which lift it out of the mundane, making it a generally enjoyable album. ‘Driving’, ‘Research’ and ‘Conversations’ are all notable for the way they combine Hugh Marsh’s electric violin solos with traditional bodhran drums and lively guitars to great effect. ‘The Killing’ is a stately pipe solo bolstered by a heavy synth element which slowly grows over the course of 5 minutes to encompass a more emotional aspect.

However, arguably the most memorable cue is ‘Bad News’ which features a stunning vocal performance by 10-year old Brian O’Donnell of an Irish folk tune called “Fields of Athenry”. Apparently, Gregson-Williams heard young O’Donnell singing for money on the streets of Dublin when he was visiting Schumacher’s set, and subsequently sent a friend of his brother Rupert’s to go back to Dublin and record this lad’s unnatural talent. Gregson-Williams’s music surrounds and envelops O’Donnell’s lisping voice, giving it depth and strength, and the inclusion of a choir gives it a moving, almost epic feel – appropriate music to underscore the scene immediately following Guerin’s murder.

Similarly, the two songs performed by Sinéad O’Connor are superb, with O’Connor’s unique, velvety voice lending the proceedings a touch of Irish class, and sounding remarkably similar to the work she did for Elliot Goldenthal on Michael Collins. ‘One More Day’, written by Gregson Williams in collaboration with composer Patrick Cassidy, violinist Marsh and producer Trevor Horn is especially memorable, being from the same musical vein as inspired the angry Irish ballads from O’Connor, Dolores O’Riordan and The Cranberries.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • One More Day (written by Harry Gregson-Williams, Trevor Horn, Hugh Marsh and Patrick Cassidy, performed by Sinéad O’Connor) (3:20)
  • Dublin 1996 (2:50)
  • Driving (1:37)
  • Preparations (1:50)
  • The Killing (5:07)
  • Research (1:03)
  • Traynor Lies (2:11)
  • The Beating (4:24)
  • Conversations (1:54)
  • First Warning (1:14)
  • Bad News (written by Harry Gregson Williams and Pete St. John, performed by Brian O’Donnell) (6:05)
  • Second Warning (2:25)
  • Deceit (3:32)
  • Never Show Your Fear (1:23)
  • The Funeral (written by Harry Gregson-Williams, Hugh Marsh and Patrick Cassidy, performed by Sinéad O’Connor) (2:21)

Running Time: 40 minutes 59 seconds

Hollywood 5050466-5820-2-7 (2003)

Music composed and conducted by Harry Gregson-Williams. Featured musical soloists Hugh Marsh, Michael Levine, Kim Carroll, Peter Di Stefano and Toby Chu. Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson, Toby Chu and Gregg Silk. Edited by Marc Streitenfeld. Mastered by Pat Sullivan. Album produced by Harry Gregson-Williams.

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