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Fair Game by John Powell

Fair Game

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Fair Game (Soundtrack) by John Powell

Fair Game
Composed by John Powell
Lakeshore Records (2010)

Rating: 6/10

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“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 intense styling.

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.

 

Rating: 6/10

 

 


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Kuala Lumpur 1:41  ****
2 The White House 2:22  **
3 Gathering Intel 3:04  ****
4 Joe's Report 3:59  **
5 Bruises 1:38  **
6 Smaky 1:01  ***
7 Sixteen Words 3:00  ****
8 Run Up to War 2:55  *
9 Change the Story 3:08  ***
10 Uncomfortable Love 6:05  ***
11 Breaking Point 3:58  **
12 Ready to Fight 2:56  ***
13 Testify 4:33  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 40 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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