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GONE BABY GONE – Harry Gregson-Williams

October 19, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In the beginning, around the time of Good Will Hunting, Ben Affleck was seen to be one of the brightest young stars in Hollywood. He put in a scintillating supporting performance in that film, won an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay with his childhood friend Matt Damon, and looked to be well on his way to becoming one of the young leading lights of the film industry. However, while the box office takings remained high, the critical acclaim for Affleck quickly vanished: his unfortunate performances in movies like Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Daredevil and Gigli made people forget just what a talented individual he really is. It’s interesting that, with Gone Baby Gone, he’s gone some way to getting some of that acclaim back.

A thriller adapted by Affleck from the novel by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote the critically acclaimed Mystic River), Gone Baby Gone is also Affleck’s directorial debut. Ben’s younger brother Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan star as two Boston private detectives reluctantly investigating the kidnapping of a young girl from one of the city’s most socially deprived neighborhoods. However, as the intrepid pair dig deeper into the case, they find themselves facing a surprising amount of opposition, initially from the girl’s bitter, drug-addicted mother (Amy Ryan), but also from a trio of crooked cops (Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris and John Ashton), who seem determined to ensure that this crime remains unsolved…

In much the same way as Affleck’s acting career stalled, I have recently found myself having similar feelings for the work of composer Harry Gregson-Williams. After an auspicious debut following his emergence from the Media Ventures fold in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the majority of Gregson-Williams’s most recent major scores (The Chronicles of Narnia, Kingdom of Heaven, Déjà Vu) have been largely disappointing efforts, and have been eclipsed entirely by those of his contemporary, John Powell. It is pleasing to report, therefore, that Gone Baby Gone is one of his most satisfying solo scores in several years, and probably his best ‘dramatic’ work since Man on Fire back in 2004.

Unlike several of his more recent works in the genre, Gone Baby Gone is more rooted in the orchestral arena, which for me is a welcome development. The “Opening” is a misleadingly pretty and hopeful piece with a delightful string and piano theme. This continues on into “Media Circus”, which builds on the opening cue’s stylistics by adding a subtle strumming guitar and bass-heavy percussion hits to add to the drama. In almost every cue thereafter, Gregson-Williams introduces a new instrumental touch to the palette, giving it a real sense of depth and progression as the goes on. Soft, moody vocals enter the fray during “Amanda Taken”, a solo trumpet anchors “Remy Lies”, and there’s even a hint of an Irish lilt in the upbeat “Lionel”, most likely to represent the Irish influence in the greater Boston area.

Of course, electronics do play a part in the score, but unlike some of his contemporaries, Gregson-Williams uses them for atmosphere and texture, giving the score a modern edge and a sense of internal rhythm, but not overwhelming or diluting the emotion. Cues like “Helene and Cheese” and “The Truth” are good examples of how Gregson-Williams captures this balance well. Even the end credits song, “In the Darkness”, performed by regular film music collaborator Lisbeth Scott, is a worthwhile listen, adding to the album’s overall feeling of working class despondency and sorrow.

All in all, Gone Baby Gone is a pretty decent score, with some good emotional orchestral writing, a healthy dose of tension, and appropriate levels of electronic enhancement. It’s never going to win any awards or introduce legions of fans to the film music genre, but as a fine example of how to write a modern thriller music with confidence and skill, it’s worth investigating. Unfortunately, the score for Gone Baby Gone was not released in stores, but is available as a download exclusively from iTunes.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Opening (2:57)
  • Media Circus (2:05)
  • Amanda Taken (1:37)
  • Helene & Cheese (1:40)
  • Lionel (1:32)
  • Remy Lies (2:32)
  • Ransom (6:42)
  • 3 Shots (3:27)
  • the Truth (3:57)
  • Confronting Doyle (3:37)
  • Gone Baby Gone (4:51)
  • In the Darkness (performed by Lisbeth Scott) (3:53)

Running Time: 38 minutes 50 seconds

Miramax Music/iTunes exclusive (2007)

Music composed and conducted by by Harry Gregson-Williams. Orchestrations by Ladd McIntosh. Additional music by David Buckley. Recorded and mixed by Malcolm Luker. Edited by Sally Boldt. Album produced by Harry Gregson-Williams.

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