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Music Review: John Powell – The Bourne Ultimatum Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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The Bourne Ultimatum is a pulse-pounding excursion into wild action and adventure as we follow Jason Bourne on his continuing quest to discover who he is and put a stop to his pursuers. Along to deliver the musical accompaniment is composer John Powell, who is one of many creative personnel who have been on board throughout the trilogy. It is always nice to have the same composer throughout a series as it provides a consistency in the music. Of course, on the flip side, it is sometimes nice to get a variety of styles throughout. But I digress.

The Bourne Ultimatum score is the first that I have listened to as a separate album, so I cannot say how it compares to the earlier albums. What I can say is that this album, which runs for nearly an hour, is filled with exciting music that will take you back to the thrills and chills that were supplied by the Paul Greengrass-helmed film, although it is no substitute for the film when it comes to pulse-pounding entertainment.

That sounds sort of contradictory, don't you think? As odd as it may be to read, it is a completely accurate representation of my experience. The movie truly had me on the edge of my seat as I watched Jason Bourne (the excellent Matt Damon) become entangled in outright fisticuffs, embroiled in car chases, and possibly most dramatically in a tense game of cat and mouse in the midst of crowded Waterloo station. It is hard to quantify just how exciting this film was. It is easily the most successful action/thriller to come out this year. It has a solid story, first rate acting, and excellent direction. When combined with Powell's score, the combined effect is one that has to be experienced as such.

If you remove the score from the film, the excitement level most definitely drops. It is often hard to fathom the importance of music to a film. Just think about what it would be like to watch this film without the music. Now reverse it — listen to the music without the images. While the result is not quite as extreme, the effect of the score is definitely lessened.

Many score albums can deliver a fully rounded experience sometimes tied to the memory of the film (such as John William's Star Wars) and sometimes as an album of pure music (like Clint Mansell's The Fountain). Of course, there are varying degrees between the two, and it is in this area that John Powell's work falls.

This score is a good listen. The peaks and valleys seem to be a bit more pronounced, and it somehow seems less exciting than it did on the big screen when combined with the incredible action. The album opens with "Six Weeks Ago;" it starts with soft strings bringing back the familiar Bourne theme from the prior films. It builds up to a crescendo of strings with backing percussion, allowing tension to build up. That is followed by the best cut on the album, "Tangiers." This second track does succeed at getting the blood boiling with its intense strings and incessant percussion. Things slow down as we move onto "Thinking of Marie," a slower, more morose number mirroring Bourne's thoughts about his murdered girlfriend (from Supremacy). This is a nice interlude, but it feels like one of the lower points of the collection.

The action picks back up with the start of "Assets and Targets." This track seeks to ratchet up tension, but is only moderately successful. However, the synth sounds used are a nice addition. "Faces Without Names" is next; it again slows the pace for a slightly more somber mood. "Waterloo" is another excellent track; this has a slow burn of suspense throughout. It is, of course, from the cat and mouse chase through the crowded station that was such a great set piece. Next is "Coming Home" which welcomes our hero to New York City. "Man Versus Man" has some interesting percussion and fragmented use of the Bourne theme throughout its short run time. The final Powell-penned cue is "Jason is Reborn." There is a nice build-up to the percussion in the middle before it trails off as the film comes to a close.

The final track on the disk is the Moby song, "Extreme Ways (The Bourne Ultimatum)." Variations of this song close out all three films. It is a catchy pop song that will leave you with a bounce in your step as you march out of the theater, or in the case of the album, reminiscing on the excellence of the film.

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