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SLEUTH – Patrick Doyle

October 12, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Clark Douglas

Kenneth Branagh has always been a director with a lot of theatrical flair, so it sort of seemed to make sense that he would choose to remake “Sleuth”, the wonderful 1972 film starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. The original film is a terrific ride of dialogue and plotting. It makes the absolute most of its contained set (a mansion) by filling it with all kinds of trinkets, gadgets, toys, and games. Call it maximum minimalism, if you like. In a brilliant bit of casting, Branagh placed Michael Caine in the role originally played by Olivier, and Jude Law in the Caine role. Though I haven’t seen Branagh’s film yet, I was surprised to learn from reading early reviews that Branagh has emptied the mansion, cut the running time by 45 minutes, and turned out a generally leaner, meaner product.

Patrick Doyle scores the film, as he always does for Branagh. Since Branagh seems to have taken the visual theatrics of “Dead Again”, “Frankenstein”, and his Shakespeare works out of this film, Doyle follows suit by providing a suitably minimalist score. The original score was written by John Addison, and centered around a single main theme that was full of suspenseful joy, a playful and humorous dance of death. Doyle takes a similar approach… using a single theme infrequently to form the entire score… but Doyle’s theme is a less overtly cheerful affair. Oh, the theme for this is full of wit and humor, but it’s of an entirely darker and more sinister variety, almost sadistic.

The score is performed by a small chamber orchestra, with violin and piano solos often taking the spotlight. Everything is essentially a variation on the main theme, which may sound a bit dull and repetitive, but that depends entirely on how you feel about the theme. Personally, I love it… it’s a masterful musical representation of the story, and Doyle manages to adjust it from sly games to dead-serious drama with remarkable ease.

The only particularly modern touches in the score are the bass rhythms that Doyle allows to creep around underneath many of the cues (reminiscent of some of Alexandre Desplat’s work). Doyle keeps changing things just a little bit, tweaking the music one way or another just enough to keep the album from ever becoming stale or predictable. “I was Lying” walks quietly on tip-toes into “Itch Twitch”, where racing strings perform a mad dance until the more dramatic “Rat in a Trap”… and so on, and so forth, all based around the main theme. The highlight cue is the six-minute “Sleuth”, the most extended and well-developed performance of the theme. It’s a terrific compilation piece, and is worth the price of the album.

Also surprisingly listenable are the “dance mixes” by Patrick Doyle Jr., more pop-based versions of the main theme. The first one is actually quite stylish and fun (though it contains snippets of dialogue, if that bothers you) and sounds a bit like what John Powell might do with the material. The second is a more typical dance piece that sounds much too dated for it’s own good. They’re basically only here to push the album running time higher than 30 minutes, but they’re a fun bonus. “Sleuth” is certainly not the most complex or accomplished score of Doyle’s career, but it’s one of the mostly slyly entertaining, and I can’t stop listening to it. A stylish and witty score, highly recommended.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • The Visitor (2:06)
  • The Ladder (2:49)
  • You’re Now You (1:26)
  • I’m Not a Hairdresser (Dance Remix with dialogue by Patrick Doyle Jr.) (3:28)
  • Black Arrival (2:22)
  • Milo Tindle (2:17)
  • I Was Lying (2:30)
  • Itch Twitch (2:23)
  • Rat in a Trap (2:26)
  • One Set All (2:24)
  • Cobblers (1:39)
  • Sleuth (6:05)
  • Too Much Sleuth (Dance Remix by Patrick Doyle Jr.) (3:51)

Running Time: 36 minutes 36 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-6854 (2007)

Music composed by Patrick Doyle. Conducted and orchestrated by James Shearman. Edited by Christopher Benstead. Album produced by Patrick Doyle.

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