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3.6 out of 5 stars
Skyfall
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2012
Bringing in a new composer to score a Bond film is invariably risky. Such was John Barry's indelible mark on the series that each new composer, from George Martin to David Arnold, has pretty much been in a 'no win' situation. Make it sound too much like Barry and you're not doing anything original, stray too far from Barry's style and you're not staying true to the musical heritage. My view - one I know won't be shared with everybody - is that the music should sound as close to John Barry as possible; the sound of Bond is as much part of the Bond formula as the pre-title sequence, the exotic locations and the fabulous sets.

So now we have Thomas Newman's score to 'Skyfall'. Firstly, the score DOES work in the context of the movie, in the sense that having seen the film, the score doesn't sound intrusive or out-of-place in the way Eric Serra's music from 'GoldenEye' was. Listening to this album, there are some tracks, invariably those from the Shanghai section of the movie, that are moody and atmospheric. Newman's theme for Severine is also really very Barryesque.

Unfortunately, Newman doesn't bring anything new to the table as regards his approach to the action music, which is pretty similar to David Arnold's method in my view. This is where John Barry tended to excel; just a quick look back at the soundtracks of his Bond scores and one can see track after track where Barry would write melodic and memorable action music: 'A Drop In The Ocean' from 'You Only Live Twice' and 'He's Dangerous' from 'A View To A Kill' are just two (of many) examples. Barry's approach was, in my opinion, much more thematic: one would hear themes repeated and built up over the course of the movie, so that they became memorable.

What we have in 'Skyfall' - and the track 'The Bloody Shot' is a prime example - is just incidental music which one would find in everything from Bourne to The Dark Knight. Although the Bond theme is interpolated into the score well, the rest of the action music (and there's a lot of it) just doesn't do anything. It doesn't go anywhere. And this is a criticism I'd level at Arnold as much as Newman. Perhaps my complaint is as much levelled at most of cinema music today, which tends to be over-produced and generic. Perhaps the era of artists like John Barry has gone forever?

One further thing: the song, performed by Adele, is very good indeed - the strongest opener for years - so why isn't it on this album? Full marks to Newman for incorporating part of it into the score but I wish he had been able to do this more often. Remember, the way the title song used to be woven into the score was a further feature of the early Bond soundtracks in which Barry excelled.

So, to close, this is not a disaster. Some of the tracks - the slower pieces in particular - work very well. And, crucially, it works for the film (by the way, the movie itself is a belter and the best since `OHMSS'). But perhaps a different composer could have a go next time though? For my money, I'd give the gig to Alexandre Desplat. Time will tell....
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2013
It doesn't have the theme song on it, it doesn't really flow like a John Barry theme, it doesn't seem to tie together and sounds like a lot of different pieces put together with nothing in common, I do like some of Thomas Newman themes but this is not one of them.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2012
I really enjoyed this score. It reflects shades of classic bond, but with a muscular modern quality. It embraces electronic elements while remaining organic, and draws deeply on classical music, more perhaps than I think previous Bond scores did.

Thomas Newman brings a mix of ambient, classical and eastern influences to the Skyfall soundtrack. Some of his string and horn arrangement are as lush as Barry's but his have a distinctive melancholy. His electronica is spare and ambient and he builds his tracks around guitar, filtered synths, delays and a low rapidly pulsing synthesised bass. At some points he is purely classical such as the lush melancholy string and harp arrangement on Severine. On tracks like Adrenaline and Grand Bazaar, Instanbul, an eastern sound makes itself heard. But all the way through the score there is a sense of tension and menace, with overtones that alternate between triumphant and melancholy.

The traditional leitmotif that usually accompanies a bond film has been truncated here. Newman cleverly references the original theme with stabs of trumpet, or snatches of flute and strings, usually only for a phrase before returning to his original composition. These references occur when Bond is doing something particularly resourceful, such as using a JCB to hold a speeding train together or when Bond's Aston Martin makes it's appearance. They build in intensity throughout the piece, at first just a few phrases or a gentle rendition on a flute or synth, building finally to a full orchestral blast on She's Mine. But even then the cue never leans to heavily on what has gone before. Newman chooses to use tonality and instrument choice to recall previous bond scores rather than simply reworking the themes. Rich horn sections, vibes, clean guitars, and lush string arrangements evoke Bond's heritage even as the new elements build on it.

Scores are designed to work together as a suite of music, but nevertheless there are some standout tracks on this one. The slow melancholy horn theme on Mother and Voluntary Retirement, grabbed my attention from the moment I heard it in the film. After a listen to the score, a cue called Skyfall (not the Adele song) stood out to me. An oboe theme matched with choir and an echoing ambient delay, evoking a sense of space but also a sense of enclosure. A Close Shave is a gentle romantic cue (woodwinds, plucked violin and vibes) very much in Newman's signature style, bright, sweet and playful. In Komodo Dragon, the Skyfall song is reworked as an ambient piece.

The Chimera is big lush orchestral cue where a stabbing string section hovers over rolling cymbals, backed by a haunting brass section. Shanghai Drive brings in filtered synth and guitar over a pulsing groove. The Quartermaster builds orchestral and eastern sounds around a repeating phrase, before breaking into a run with a pulsing string section. The Moors is one of the most menacing cuts I've heard on a bond film, a growling guitar and bass sets up a riff first against a wash of guitar delay, then the howl of a brass section, which is then outstripped by percussion, and closed with a haunting flute.

This is a very different sort of bond score, and many will be disappointed by the move away from the straightforward use of leitmotif. It's worth remembering that the reboot of the Bond series was attempt to make the series into something fresh and different, and the music has changed as a part of that. There was a markedly less use of this device on David Arnold's Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace scores. In Casino Royale most of the leitmotif is actually drawn from the title song, and the Bond Theme is saved almost exclusively for the last scene with Mr White, to brilliant effect. Secondly, it is worth remembering that reworking a good theme is not a guarantee of an effective score. An early scene in From Russia With Love has the full orchestral James Bond theme blasting out full tilt while Bond calmly checks into a hotel room and opens his suitcases! John Barry had a number of themes he would use, including the 007 theme (as distinct from the James Bond theme), and Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which gives his scores a sense of cohesiveness. However, he left himself plenty of room to make creative pieces to suit the film. It would be a shame to fall into the trap of giving world class composers a list of themes that they must work into a score, instead of opening our minds to see what they can create.

Thomas Newman's decision to use the concept of leitmotif in a subtler way was a brave creative choice that seems to have received rather harsh criticism from other reviewers. Some only commented to complain that Adele's Skyfall was not included on this CD. Your protest vote has been noted, but what did you think of Thomas Newman's score?

John Barry remains the king of classic bond, but I don't think anyone doubted he would. There is no space for someone to make better score of that type. What remains is to make a different one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2013
Strangely this music was not nearly so effective when played apart from the film itself. It was all much of a muchness.
As a backing for the film however, it was very effective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2013
I am giving this score a solid 3 stars.

It isn't as weak as some reviews have made out, nor is it breaking any new ground at all. For me, it is just a bit too generic in places. I don't think the lack of the Bond theme is an issue - some of Arnold's better work didn't need it, and we don't necessarily need it here either. But somehow the whole soundscape is just lacking a little sparkle.

It is suitably moody and atmospheric in the right places, so it doesn't jar with what is going on in a rather darker Bond film at times. Tennyson was getting a bit too melodramatic for my liking though. I suspect we will have more of the same for Bond24, since Newman is sure to be back if Mendes is directing again.
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on 5 July 2013
The score for Skyfall is a long one, coming in at just under 80 minutes and boasting 30 tracks, which range from the minimalist and atmospheric to the action-packed. As some other reviewers have noted, it doesn't include Adele's title song, but it features a very high proportion of the other music used in the film, so I haven't allowed this to affect the star rating.

I had some doubts about buying this soundtrack after seeing the mixed reviews, and was unsure about it on my first play-through, but most of the tracks have grown on me considerably. As is common with Thomas Newman's soundtracks, there is a large array of different musical ideas that are used for a short while and then dropped, rather than frequent use of leitmotif (recurring use of an individual theme), which may put some off, but the James Bond theme is subtly integrated into many of the tracks and at least two tracks have subtle cues from Adele's title song.

The score combines elements of Thomas Newman's style with the Bond style, resulting in something that sounds a bit different, and that benefits from repeated listenings. The theme used in "Voluntary Retirement" and "Mother" is quite memorable, as is the sequence used in "New Digs" for example. It's worth having a sound system with a good "bass" to get the most out of some of the tracks, particularly regarding the frequent "action" tracks during the second half of the soundtrack.

I wouldn't quite place this soundtrack up there with John Barry's best efforts, but I find it the most enjoyable of the non-Barry Bond soundtracks, and I'd certainly be up for Thomas Newman being given another go for Bond 24.
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on 27 February 2013
I didn't really like the music that accompanied the action scenes. It was mostly just loud and generic,(but then you could level this accusation at most film soundtracks).

Where Newman excels, is in scoring slower, more character-driven scenes,(just like he did in the Green Mile, & the Shawshank Redemption).

My favourite compositions from Skyfall are: M's theme, Severine's theme-where you see her for the first time, the piece when Bond travels to the new MI6 HQ, the ambient piece when he is observing Patrice-in the Shanghai skyscraper, and finally, the haunting music that greats Bonds arrival in Scotland.

Lets face it, the new Bond soundtracks will always be in the shadows of the John Barry masterpieces, (for me), in particular the On Her Majesties Secret Service score-which is absolutely stunning!

The ubiquitous Hans Zimmer will encounter similar problems in composing the new Superman soundtrack-how does one emulate Williams epic score?!
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on 29 January 2013
It seems a lot has been written about this score already, so my comments will be brief.

Thoman Newman has one major advantage over David Arnold; he is actually a musician and not just a producer who dabbles in composing. This guy knows how to handle strings and turns up some lovely cues, especially "Tennyson" and "Skyfall" which are highly evocative. Even Newman's rendition of Arnold's James Bond Theme arrangement sounds somehow better and more competent than Arnold's version.

But... I couldn't agree more with another reviewer on here (Big Si), who says give it to Alexandre Desplat in future. Against all modern trends in film music, Desplat knows how to weave a strong theme and make you remember.

Newman's Skyfall score works very well in context, but you don't come out of the cinema humming the tune and that is crucial for anything that's going to be called "classic Bond".
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2013
It was a daunting task for Thomas Newman to take responsibility for the soundtrack of Skyfall - an opportunity with a risk. He has come out of it exceptionally well. Naturally the spectre of John Barry always looms, but that aside, the music matches the intensity of the film with glimpses of the earlier loved bond themes. For those who bemoan not having Adele singing 'Skyfall' then consider what I have done - purchase Adele's song in mp3 for £0.79 and start your session off with it or introduce it wherever you like. I use iTunes and the task is so easy. Splendid!

One slight gripe is that the sequence does not match the film. To overcome this I have rearranged the order of play in iTunes.
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on 2 March 2015
What a con! I should have read all the reviews before buying this. No theme song on a movie soundtrack cd! The first time I have come across such an OST. Shame on whoever produced this. I love original music and their quality and will pay for good songs. You are a disgrace not putting this on the cover. Small print on the back do not count! I will not buy anymore Bond OSTs.
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