Fair Game Composed by John Powell
Lakeshore Records (2010)
Soundclips below from AmazonMP3
“Powell’s music is
undoubtedly suited to the film that it accompanies, but it does
nothing to defy the conventions set out by previous thrillers and
those set by Powell himself.”
Fair Thee Powell
Review by Richard Buxton
JOHN POWELL is no stranger to the
thriller genre, having scored the likes of “The Bourne” Trilogy and “Green
Zone” in recent years. Therefore he finds himself in a familiar position
with FAIR GAME, a political thriller that retells the story of former
CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.
In 2003 after Wilson’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, had
written a piece in the New York Times criticising the reasoning behind the
Iraq War, Wilson’s CIA status was leaked to the press. This betrayal by
the government led to what is now known as the Plame Affair.
Finding himself in such familiar territory, JOHN POWELL could be forgiven
for not producing the most inspiring score of his career. Powell’s music
is undoubtedly suited to the film that it accompanies, but it does nothing
to defy the conventions set out by previous thrillers and those set by
Powell himself. Beginning with “Kuala Lumpur”, the score opens with a
style reminiscent of Brian Tyler’s opening track for the 2009 film “Fast &
Furious”, “Landtrain”. The rhythm of the percussion and electronic
elements also serve to remind listeners of Powell’s previous efforts in
the “Bourne” films. Building up to a sudden release, “Kuala Lumpur” works
well as a statement of intent and comfortably settles the score into the
typical thriller rhythm.
Following the competent opening comes “White House”, a significantly
different piece in both tone and pace. After the forceful opening, this
piece could easily be mistaken for the music of a different film entirely.
However it maintains a sense of anticipation, albeit of a slightly less
It would be nothing less than unfair to expect Powell to reinvent the
wheel with FAIR GAME. The content of the film demands a competent
thriller template and Powell certainly delivers. His use of a descending
three-note motif in “Gathering Intel” works well on top of the numerous
pad sounds and evolving percussion lines. The piece further evolves into a
percussion-dominated one before undergoing a dramatic transformation as
the suspenseful electronic bass drives the track forward.
A change in tone and pace in the second half of each track seems to have
become commonplace by the time “Joe’s Report” is heard. The repeating of
the distorted and delayed guitar lays way to a more subdued plucked
strings sound. This multi-faceted approach to the score is one of the key
strengths of FAIR GAME, as is expressed in the tracks “Bruises”, “Smaky”
and “Sixteen Words”. The sombre strings and pad of “Bruises” strongly
contrasts to with the mischievous strings heard in “Smaky”, while “Sixteen
Words” returns to the more familiar high-octane tone of the opening track.
Borrowing the rhythmic percussion of “Kuala Lumpur”, “Sixteen Words” is
one of the stronger offerings of FAIR GAME. This highlight is
immediately counteracted by a confusingly sparse and occasionally grating
composition, namely “Run Up To War, made up largely of reverb-covered
electronics and barely detectable strings. “Run Up To War” goes through
almost no evolution, establishing the admittedly tense sound, but doing
very little to improve upon its basis.
While listening to FAIR GAME it becomes apparent that Powell would not
have struggled in the process of composing the score, such is the
cookie-cutter approach on display. The dual approach for each track that
sees dramatic shifts part way through is commendable, but doesn’t quite
manage to divert the route out of monotony. The score’s closing moments
are accentuated by another rhythmically strong track, “Testify”. Powell
has always shown a flair for percussion and it is easy to imagine that
such efforts as heard here are second nature to him. “Testify” bears more
than a resemblance to his compositions in “The Bourne Ultimatum”, the
repeating strings towards the end mirroring those heard in Ultimatum’s
track “Tangiers”. “Testify” establishes a resolving atmosphere as is
expected, while simultaneously retaining the tension heard throughout,
largely due to the strong percussion.
FAIR GAME is an easy recommendation to long-time fans of Powell, and to
those who appreciate music of the thriller genre, no matter how lacking it
is of in innovation.