John Powell: The Hits and the Misses. Or the Missus, although I've never met Mrs Powell (and I don't know if there is one come to think of it). Still, that's a totally random opening to this review, although it does have a point - there's always a point - and that's to say that The Bourne Identity rather unfortunately comes under The Misses part. Unlike his animation cohort Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell's solo efforts have been moderately impressive, notably the gorgeous I Am Sam which really was one of the surprising treats of 2001. Quality drama scores are in short supply these days (Messrs. Newman, R and Bernstein, E can't score all of them), but on the other hand, dreary thriller scores are tediously plentiful and unfortunately, we can add The Bourne Identity to that list.
It doesn't get off to a bad start, the Main Titles are a fairly pleasing strings and percussion mixture, but after that the string orchestra gets relegated for most of the running time and it's just percussion and synthetic beeps. The action sequences are the more interesting by default, mainly because there are just more beats per minute, but since there's almost nothing in the way of interesting melody, these are pretty interchangeable. When the 'theme track,' in this case Jason's Theme, is one of the least interesting tracks on the album, you know you're in trouble. Like David Arnold's Changing Lanes, it drifts from one speed of percussion to another, with almost no dramatic thrust. The feeling of it being musical wallpaper to just propel the action along, but without commenting on it in any emotional or dramatic way, is rather difficult to ignore. Of course, this means that on CD it sounds like an experiment on a large bank of keyboards and not a particularly great musical score.
All that rather suggests that The Bourne Identity is devoid of merit, which isn't entirely true. For the type of music it is, it's certainly not entirely uninteresting. I am trying to avoid constantly referring to the aforementioned Arnold score, but it's hard not to since both suffer from essentially the same problem. For the genre, they are perfectly adequate and I'm sure plenty of people will enjoy the no-brainer propulsion of it all, but with so many better thriller and spy scores out there - Arnold himself does this kind of thing much better in his Bond efforts - The Bourne Identity just seems hard to recommend.