Home > Reviews > THE BOURNE SUPREMACY – John Powell


bournesupremacyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

When The Bourne Identity, the first film based upon Robert Ludlum’s massively successful spy novels, grossed almost $122 million at the US box office, a sequel was inevitable. The Bourne Supremacy sees Matt Damon returning as the eponymous Jason Bourne, the former CIA assassin who, following the exploits of the last film, has settled down with a new identity in a tropical paradise with his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente). However, when the CIA comes knocking on Bourne’s door once more, trying to frame him for a bungled operation, Bourne decides to fight back and clear his name. The film is directed by Englishman Paul Greengrass, making his Hollywood debut following years of sterling work creating top-notch dramas for British TV, and co-stars Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles and Karl Urban.

John Powell once again returns to provide the score and, once again, I find myself being surprised by how good the end product is. Perhaps it has something to do with my own negative preconceptions about the ‘spy thriller’ genre, but I always expect the scores to be little more than drum loops and synthesized overlays. And while Powell’s score does have its fair share of drums and synths, there is also a great deal of innovation and orchestral cleverness which lifts it above the majority. Occasionally the music veers almost into high-energy dance music territory – an unexpected twist in a score such as this – but the overall effect remains a positive one.

As one might expect, action plays a large role in The Bourne Supremacy, but such is Powell’s skill that he constantly changes things, mixes them up and keeps them exciting. The string section of the orchestra alters its tempo regularly, performing new and interesting ostinatos to underpin the action in stand-out cues such as “Gathering Data”, “To The Roof”, “Berlin Foot Chase” and “Bim Bam Smash”. Powell then overlays the strings with a whole host of unusual percussion items, intertwines them with acoustic and electric guitars, works with the lower ranges of a piano, and gives each cue a distinct identity. His electronic sound design is also worth mentioning: at times it seems to mimic the sounds of nature, while at others the hooting and whistling is almost indescribable, but the cumulative effect is never less than ingenious.

The mournful bassoon theme that seems to illustrate Bourne’s loneliness and isolation again re-appears, initially in the opening track “Goa”, and then in longer form during “New Memories”, which provides welcome respite from the testosterone-driven action that surrounds it. The second half of “Goa” is also interesting, heading off on a pseudo-samba bent to add an exotic flavor to the setting, while the finale, “Atonment”, features a beautifully rendered string version of the bassoon theme which gives the score a sense of pathos and closure. Also included on the album is Moby’s 2002 single “Extreme Ways”, which was obviously included as a selling-point for people who don’t buy film scores on the name John Powell alone. It’s a good song, nevertheless, and fits in with Powell’s modern electronic stylings.

I should stop trying to pre-judge albums like this, especially when it comes to a composer as talented as John Powell. For whatever reason, I somehow always under-value the contribution music can make to films of this nature, and never expect the score to amount to much. I should know better: with him having written such excellent works as Paycheck, Agent Cody Banks and Pluto Nash, as well as box-office hits such as The Italian Job and the original Bourne, he is proving more than adept at tackling multiple genres, although I do hope he doesn’t become pigeonholed as a “techno-thriller” composer. The Bourne Supremacy certainly comes recommended to fans of his work.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Goa (2:59)
  • The Drop (3:42)
  • Funeral Pyre (2:21)
  • Gathering Data (1:54)
  • Nach Deutschland (2:40)
  • To The Roof (5:32)
  • New Memories (2:48)
  • Berlin Foot Chase (5:16)
  • Alexanderplatz/Abbotts Confesses (3:35)
  • Moscow Wind Up (6:55)
  • Bim Bam Smash (5:09)
  • Atonement (1:32)
  • Extreme Ways (written and performed by Moby) (3:56)

Running Time: 48 minutes 28 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6592 (2004)

Music composed by John Powell. Conducted by Pete Anthony. Performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony. Orchestrations by John Powell, Bruce Fowler, Walt Fowler, Suzette Moriarty, Elizabeth Finch and Rick Giovinazzo. Featured musical soloists Mike O’Donnovan, Mike Fisher, Bernie Dressell, Dan Greco, Brian Kilgore, George Doering, John Powell, Randy Kerber, Vinnie Coailuta, Greg Bissonette and Curt Bisquera. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Tom Carlson. Mastered by Patricia Sullivan-Fourstar. Album produced by John Powell.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: