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IN BRUGES – Carter Burwell

February 8, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Clark Douglas

Acclaimed playwright Martin McDonagh has made the leap to the big screen with his directorial debut, “In Bruges” (which he also wrote, of course). The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as a couple of hit men hiding out in the lovely city of Bruges after a hit goes sour. Ralph Fiennes also plays a supporting role, and reviews have mostly been quite positive (including a four-star rave from Roger Ebert). McDonagh seems to be a pretty intelligent guy, and like a lot of intelligent directors in Hollywood (such as Joel and Ethan Coen, Spike Jonze, David Mamet, David O. Russell, and others), he has picked Carter Burwell to provide the score. Only Thomas Newman is able to rival Burwell in his ability to snag high-profile indie film assignments.

Burwell introduces a melancholic piano theme in the “Prologue” and “Medieval Waters”, a quiet and understated piece which seems to suggest regret. Yet another regretful piano theme appears in “The Little Dead Boy”, an equally effective piece of music. These two quiet themes dominate the score, appearing frequently in short, sensitive cues. I’ve only seen the film’s trailer as this review’s writing, but based on that you’d think that there would be considerably more action and comedy reflected in Burwell’s music. Not so, this is really a very sad and quiet score… for the most part, anyway.

Burwell fires off a wild action cue in “Shootout Part I”, filled with energetic electric guitars and pounding percussion. There are a few other action cues in the latter part of the album, but they tend to feel more like dramatic scoring as opposed to blatant action scoring. There’s some dramatic intensity in “Harry Walks”, “Shootout Part II” and a couple other cues, but the energy level rarely rises above moderate. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as “In Bruges” manages to maintain a very consistent tone aside from the single aforementioned eruption. Well, in terms of the score, anyway.

There are a handful of songs scattered throughout the album. They’re mostly pretty good, but I dislike the semi-abrupt change of pace between Carter Burwell’s music and the tunes from Townes Van Zant, The Walkmen, Andreas Schmidt (doing a Schubert piece), The Dubliners, and Pretenders. I generally like Burwell’s low-key dramatic work, and I generally liked “In Bruges”, too. It’s a bit more simple than I might have preferred, and I think that an extra ten minutes of score material wouldn’t have hurt anything… but it’s not a bad album of music. Recommended for Burwell fans, but not likely to be an essential purchase for most.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Prologue (1:17)
  • Medieval Waters (1:40)
  • The Little Dead Boy (1:46)
  • St. John the Gambler (performed by Townes Van Zandt) (3:03)
  • The Last Judgment (1:52)
  • View From the Tower (1:03)
  • My Suicide Your Homicide (1:38)
  • Brandy Alexander (performed The Walkmen) (2:30)
  • Save the Next Boy (1:19)
  • Ray at the Mirror (1:19)
  • Walking Bruges (0:37)
  • The Magic Frog (0:49)
  • Schubert: 24. Der Leirmann (performed Andreas Schmidt) (3:41)
  • Harry Walks (1:21)
  • Dressing for Death (1:11)
  • The Kiss Walk Past (1:05)
  • On Raglan Road (performed by The Dubliners) (4:15)
  • Thugs Passing in the Night (1:12)
  • Shootout Part I (2:10)
  • When He’s Dead (1:09)
  • Shootout Part II (2:43)
  • Principles (1:25)
  • I Didn’t Want to Die (1:35)
  • 2000 Miles (performed by The Pretenders) 3:38)

Running Time: 44 minutes 18 seconds

Lakeshore LKS-33982 (2008)

Music composed and conducted by Carter Burwell. Orchestrations by Carter Burwell. Recorded and mixed by Michael Farrow. Edited by James Bellamy. Album produced by Carter Burwell.

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