Can one have a great movie without a great soundtrack? Perhaps, though I personally can’t think of any examples (can you?). We rely on music to provide emotional cues and to enhance a scene’s emotional impact. An action scene may be cool on mute but it comes to life with a thrilling soundtrack. And a love scene gets the extra romance with soaring strings. Or a little bass. 😉
Which brings us to Bourne. Jason Bourne. I had the pleasure of seeing the latest installment yesterday* and hearing the familiar themes made me appreciate composer John Powell‘s unique contributions to the film series. The scores are a masterpiece of understated, emotive motifs that pull you along for the ride without being big or bombastic. It’s the thinking man’s score for the thinking man’s James Bond.
This time around, John Powell teamed up with David Buckley for the soundtrack composition. The good news is that the themes and motifs from the first three carry through. Those themes help establish the Bourne universe and it wouldn’t have worked without them. For more on the themes, check out this in-depth essay (isn’t the internet awesome?).
I wasn’t able to locate much info on the division of duties between Powell and Buckley, but there are noticeable differences in feel, including timbre and instrument choice. In addition to the OG themes, there are composition choices that feel more traditional soundtracky and less-Bourney. They have also mostly abandoned the Euro-EDM influences of the earlier scores. This updates the soundtrack away from the early 00’s vibe, however it also removed some of the modern 21st-century feel from the music. Bond can get away with big, sweeping, sing-along melodies and traditional scores but Bourne needs something more au courant and tightly composed to match the tension of his character and the era he represents.
But never fear, Bourne music enthusiasts, we do get our “Extreme Ways” at the end. Moby has re-re-re-(I’ve lost count) mixed the signature Bourne song for Jason Bourne. I like this version probably second best, after the original. I’m not a big Moby fan but I have loved this song from that first credit-roll back in 2002. It was so frustrating when the song was not on the Bourne Identity soundtrack and we had to wait for the Supremacy one to get the song (for those who don’t recall that less than awesome period in time, this was back when you had to buy albums or illegally download. Don’t illegally download. It’s not cool.).
“Extreme Ways” captures the energy and ambiance of both the movies and the time period so well. For me, to hear it is to feel the excitement of the first film. Which coincided with my own crazy European adventure the same year, so perhaps there is definitely some nostalgia. 😀 The original version for your listening pleasure:
And the 2016 remix:
For those who would like a bigger refresher course, I have compiled all the available-on-Spotify soundtracks here. For some reason, Ultimatum isn’t on there, but you can stream it or buy it on Amazon.
And because it was so awesome, Paul Oakenfold’s “Ready Steady Go”, used for that spectacular car chase through Paris in Identity :
Might I recommend a binge viewing of the trilogy this weekend? Or tonight, whatever works best!
* Quick Movie Review: I love the original Bourne Trilogy and I must say it was nice to basically have the loose ends tidied up (I’ll spare you the spoilers). The plot was good, the cinematography was fantastic, the acting was engaging, the sets and locations totally incredible, etc. But it lacked some of the spark and energy of the original three (can we blame the soundtrack? Bring back the techno! Words I never thought I would type…). So I would say it was good but not great, but still worth seeing in the theater if you have the chance.
Also, I highly doubt that the CIA puts their black ops files in a folder titled “Black Operations”. Or maybe they do. Maybe they feel that safe behind their firewall. Or they lack creativity. Or both. But I would hope if they do have a “Black Operations” folder, it is actually full of cat pictures as a joke on would-be hackers. And that the Black Ops stuff is in a folder called “J.B.’s European Vacation”. ;D!