When a soundtrack albums opens with Suite for Orchestra and Chorus you either know it's by a composer traditionally known for his classical works or that the composer is taking things just a touch too seriously. I'm opting for the latter. Indeed, there is so much carefully wrought gravity to the entire score, that you can't help feeling that Klaus Badelt has taken his duties with just a little too much responsibility. Reviews of the film have suggested that the music is over bearing, and while that can often mean a good score album (and it's by no means bad), I can understand exactly how it could be deemed overly sincere and dramatic within the film itself since the same feeling is evident while listening to it on its own.
Perhaps the inherent problem of trying to be so sincere is that you have to pick how to do it, but Badelt has (perhaps unsurprisingly) picked the Hans Zimmer approach to gravitas - lots of long lines, the occasional dramatic brass build up and plenty of low end choir. It isn't surprising that there is a lot of Zimmer in there, Badelt is/was a Media Ventures man and Zimmer's score to Crimson Tide is the benchmark submarine score (even if the reputation hinges mainly around the few striking appearances of the main theme, the rest is really a bit unexciting). Like Zimmer, Badelt has also attempted to give everything a very pseudo-classical sound, as though it was penned by one of the great romantic Russian composers - Shostakovich or Prokofiev. Of course, this is not a new approach to film music composition, but unfortunately Badelt applies the aesthetics in pretty much the same way Zimmer probably would, but in a somewhat less interesting way.
Unfortunately, as with many Zimmer sound alikes, it's the not terribly interesting melodic material that gives it away. Having said that, the main theme is quite memorable, but has that nagging feeling of sounding like something else, the name of which you can never quite recall, but there's certainly something familiar about it. Badelt doesn't use the theme too often, but any other melodies tend seem to drift around, never really making themselves known, yet never resolving. Although the advertising suggests an action and tension filled thriller, the music suggests that the entire film is an elegy, with lots of remembrances for the dead. As the album is quite long and the melodic material none too strong, it suffers from the same problems as recent James Horner scores, that of feeling like one overly extended cue that doesn't seem to be going anyway and gets more and more depressing by the minute.
Adding to the sombre atmosphere is a selection from Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light, a composition for soprano, choir and orchestra. Its underlying sobriety is effective, although after over three quarters an hour of Badelt's somewhat stodgy adagios, I found myself less inclined to listen to it. As a stand alone track, its true quality is evident, but given its positioning on the album, just seems a bit much by that stage. The album completes with a more stirring rendition of the main theme in Reunion, one of the most potent tracks and a rewarding finale. Yet another score where a little pruning would have gone a long way. It wouldn't have hidden the reasonably obvious Zimmer inspired sections or that the fact that it's essentially a one (none too inspired) theme score. However, for the best tracks, it's certainly worth checking out, just don't expect to be cheered by the time it's over.