Casino Royale

David Arnold

Rating: 7.8

It seems the world was tiring of the same Bond that had sufficed for decades. Obviously, a revamp was in order. Casino Royale took a stylistic turn towards the modern and the gritty. No longer was Bond invincible. In fact, Casino Royale went back to the beginning of the story to explore the beginnings of 007. While many changes were made to the cast and production team, including the actor for Bond himself, the choice was made to give David Arnold the composing duties once again, and trust his ability to adapt to the new style of the movie.

As it turns out, their belief was not unfounded, and Arnold produced a score which is fittingly gritty and only loosely tries to connect with previous Bond musical ideas. Gone is the inescapable Barry-esque soaring strings and the big-band brass-heavy sense of 'cool' found in the earlier scores, with the popular Bond theme barely appearing at all. Instead, we are given a score which is subdued at times and frantic at others. A score which follows more closely the Jason Bourne vein of scoring and only makes infrequent nods toward the Bond music of the past.

In keeping with the decision to change the template of the music, the song "You Know My Name", music written by David Arnold and sung by Chris Cornell, leans farther toward rock than is usually the case. This change, though a little controversial, works very well in the complete score context. Since Arnold composed the music for the song, he was able to incorporate it into his score, and does so liberally. The melody holds up well in an orchestral setting, and is flexible enough that Arnold is able to hint at it frequently while doing so differently each time. The unfortunate part is that, for legal reasons, the song did not get put on the soundtrack CD. The remedy for this, however, is only an iTunes download away, and the problem should not count seriously against the product.

"African Rundown" starts off the album on the right track, and is my personal favorite. Energized and exciting, it sets the tone for the rest of the action music on the album. The tone used is one that is certainly orchestral at its foundation, yet in no way shies away from electronic elements. Thus an edge is developed, and fits well the grittier tone that was obviously the goal of the music. What is refreshing is that Arnold is able to employ these modern percussive elements in a frantic and fast-paced way, without relying on the mindless repetition that has been the downfall of so many scores that had good ideas, yet relegated themselves to sub-par efforts because of their lack of creativity. "Miami International" is in the same frantic chase-music style, and, though very long, manages to hold suspense in an impressive way.

The one place where the score loses some points is in the quiet pieces. Instead of infusing them with subtle meaning and restrained style, Arnold spends far too much time drifting through ideas without focus. There are many short quiet tracks which fail to hold interest because of this problem. The exceptions to this are when the title song is providing the musical idea, which works very nicely in a quiet setting. Vesper Lynd is given a musical identity, and even a nice quiet piano rendition in "Vesper". Unfortunately, while the theme is nice, it doesn't really rise above nice, and instead usually only adds to the meandering background music.

Casino Royale, while in no why a stylistic ground-breaker, is still a change in direction for the Bond franchise, and almost seems to have an experimental element in it. As it tries new things and also tries to make them loosely fit the Bond sound there are times when it succeeds wonderfully, but also times when it fails. But the good certainly far outweighs the bad, and makes for an enjoyable, if somewhat long, listening experience.

-Colin Thomson

Track List:

African Rundown
Nothing Sinister
Unauthorised Access
Blunt Instrument
Trip Aces
Miami International
I'm The Money
Aston Montenegro
Dinner Jackets
The Tell
Stairwell Fight
Bond Loses It All
Dirt Martini
Bond Wins It All
The End Of An Aston Martin
The Bad Die Young
City Of Lovers
The Switch
Fall Of A House In Venice
Death Of A Vesper
The ***** Is Dead
The Name's Bond...James Bond

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