Home > Reviews > BODY OF LIES – Marc Streitenfeld

BODY OF LIES – Marc Streitenfeld

October 10, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Director Ridley Scott’s feature film for 2008 is Body of Lies, a high-tech espionage thriller based on the best selling novel by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. Leonard Di Caprio stars as Roger Ferris, a covert CIA operative working in Jordan searching for terrorists who have been bombing civilian targets. When Ferris uncovers information on the Islamist mastermind Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul), he devises a plan to infiltrate Al-Saleem’s terrorist network with the help of his boss back in the USA, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). However, Ferris’s plan brings him into close contact with the Chief of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong). Despite their enormous cultural and moral differences, the two are forced to work together, but neither fully trusts the other. With a screenplay by Oscar-winner William Monaghan, Body of Lies has all the pedigree to be a box office success; for the score, Scott again turned to his current composer du jour, Marc Streitenfeld.

Originally from Munich in Germany, Streitenfeld first emerged on the scene in the early 1990s as Hans Zimmer’s personal assistant, and went on to assist a number of Media Ventures in-house composers for the next few years, as a composer’s assistant and a ‘technical score advisor’. He was a music editor on The Prince of Egypt, Gladiator, Hannibal, The Last Samurai, and several other high profile films, and was Harry Gregson-Williams’s music supervisor on Kingdom of Heaven in 2005, before unexpectedly being given his first solo scoring gig by Ridley Scott on “A Good Year” in 2006. He followed that up with a score for Scott’s last film, “American Gangster”, and now makes it three in a row with Body of Lies.

For the most part, Body of Lies is a fairly unremarkable score. It relies heavily on little more than shifting orchestral textures and percussive rhythms to drive along the action, and is given a sense of geographic specificity through the regular inclusion of various ethnic percussion instruments and a number of Middle Eastern timbres, notably a trio of lute-like plucked instruments – a saz, a tanbur and an oud – and an Iranian santur hammered dulcimer. There’s very little to speak of in terms of thematic content, and beyond a simple 8-note rhythmic phrase which crops up in a few cues, certainly nothing in the way of a recurring, identifiable melody. Instead, the score just sort of meanders along for 45 minutes or so, sporadically presenting an interesting texture or a more upbeat rhythmic element, but otherwise not doing a whole lot. I’m sure it accompanies Di Caprio’s undercover operations well, adding to the drama without bringing undue attention to itself, but as a standalone listening experience it quickly loses its way.

The score’s few highlights come as a result of Streitenfeld’s occasionally interesting instrumental touches. The opening “White Whale” features an unusual, drunken-sounding bowed string effect, and a vocal performance by Palestinian-American singer/songwriter Naser Musa, which later re-occurs in “Al-Saleem” and the conclusive “Betrayal”. Solo piano and wavering strings add a mournful touch to “Burning Safehouse”. The elephantine thumps in “Manchester Raid” gives it a bit of depth and presence. The saz solo in “Dead Sea” adds a touch of eloquent local color. Other than these brief moments, though, Body of Lies could be considered something of a bore. Even the more action-oriented tracks, like “Chased”, “I’m Out” or “Lost Vision” don’t raise the pulse much beyond a slight, sputtering arrhythmia.

Part of the problem is that it lacks any kind of individual identity; there’s nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. Dozens and dozens of political thrillers have received scores like this since Spy Game in 2001, and they’re now beginning to all sound the same. James Newton Howard, or John Powell, or Harry Gregson-Williams write this kind of stuff in their sleep, and more often than not do it better. In reality, Marc Streitenfeld is fortunate to have his entry into this unremarkable series attached to such a high profile film, otherwise it would likely have been lost in the midst of all the other scores which sound just like it.

Rating: **

Buy the Body of Lies soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • White Whale (2:14)
  • Punishment (1:36)
  • To Amman (2:42)
  • Aisha (2:11)
  • All by Himself (1:32)
  • Burning Safehouse (1:46)
  • Al-Saleem (2:05)
  • Manchester Raid (2:40)
  • Chased (1:35)
  • NSA Speech (2:46)
  • Tortured (2:13)
  • Dead Sea (1:16)
  • No Touch (1:21)
  • I Am Out (2:37)
  • Rabid Dogs (2:49)
  • Lost Vision (2:00)
  • Never Lie To Me (1:14)
  • I Shutter to Think (2:27)
  • Half Steps (1:28)
  • Making the Call (1:11)
  • My Fault (1:53)
  • Betrayal (3:31)

Running Time: 45 minutes 18 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-6923 (2008)

Music composed by Marc Streitenfeld. Conducted by Mike Nowak and Pete Anthony. Performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by Bruce Fowler, Walt Fowler, Yvette Moriarty and Rick Giovinazzo. Recorded and mixed by Malcolm Luker. Edited by Del Spiva. Album produced by Marc Streitenfeld.

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