I would suggest that this is one of the most popular and famous scores that George Fenton has written. It contains all that is great about his music, a sumptuous, soaring main theme, a few spine tingling moments, great drama and just marvellously composed orchestral music. Some of the music is based around the traditional tunes of Danny Boy and Amazing Grace. While this suggest unoriginality, they fit in with the tone of the score very well and are used by Fenton in many different guises with varying orchestrations that means that very well known pieces of musig take on an entirely different context and meaning. Fenton's own theme is a malleable, heroic effort full of large intervals and when performed with full orchestra is truly awe inspiring. One of the most stirring and shiver inducing cues ever written, The Final Mission turns from a quite low key beginning into a bouncing and exciting variation of the main theme and then into a huge orchestral climax that when played at full volume will stir the stoniest soul. There are other bravura moments, most notably in the extended End Title suite which would make an excellent concert piece. Fenton comes over all Carl Davis with a chord heavy piano rendition of the main theme a la The Champions, a moment which I found as equally stirring as the full orchestral renditions.
Of course a film about World War II can't always be totally romantic and heroic and indeed Fenton provides some gorgeously understated sombre moments. One clever thing he does is to have a couple of bars after the full statement of the main theme which features a minor key string figure; a kind of 'yes this is heroic, but it all almost went horribly wrong.' A clever piece of composition. Of the more extended and elegaic moments is the deeply felt With Deep Regret which accompanies a scene where a senior officer reads a heartfelt letter from the parents of a son killed in action. This coupled with Fenton's music is truly a moving scene. As well as Fenton's terrific music there are a few traditional pieces, Glenn Millar and the like. These songs and big band numbers are good for setting the period, but I would have perhaps preferred them to have been grouped at the beginning or end. I always program them out so that the best possible listening experience of Fenton's music.
This is definitely a score that no George Fenton fan should be without, but it's appeal should certainly be more widespread than that. It is everything that is good about film music, memorable themes, strongly dramatic moments and expertly wrought music that fitted the film like a glove and makes for a worthy listening experience. Highly recommended on all counts.