Review by Brad Green:
James Bond might have wrestled with the SPECTRE of world-domination hungry
megalomaniacs, but I doubt he could have won WWII for Britain. That was a job for the real
intelligence behind Intelligence. Of course whether you’re a rakish action agent, or
a mathematical geek, the one thing anyone in the espionage caper truly needs is a John
Barry score. Play your part to the tune of the master melodist and you know that
he’ll bring a romantic twist to the danger that means you’re bound to get lucky
in both love and war.
Or that’s the theory. But Barry’s score here is no predictable mix of 007 and
Dances With Wolves. He’s too savvy a composer to indulge in a complex cocktail when
something more along the lines of the driest martini is in order. To clarify: it is not
that the two scores mentioned are in any way flawed. In fact, they’re among the
finest soundtracks in cinematic history; but the potential booby trap for Barry was that
the genre of this film seems to be asking for an instant emotion-grabber, while its nuance
required something else. Barry twigged, aimed for something subtler, and it works.
If it’s romantic to hold hands it the rain, what can one say about the
vicissitudes of love against a backdrop of war? That it is damn dangerous terrain for a
drop into unmitigated sentimentality, that’s what. So Barry reigns in his sweeping
motifs and draws forth emotion, slowly and powerfully via sublime understatement.
The central piano theme here seems a trifle simple and limited when we first hear it.
As it weaves through the score as a whole, however, it leaves an indelible imprint. A
tangible soundscape unfolds, gradually and completely, with peaks and valleys in all the
right places. Barry is still quite capable of overwhelming our emotions at the right
moments, and these come in cues such as the short, riveting proclamations of Wigram
Arrives which segue to the score’s longest individual cue, The Convoy. This
superlative cue flows along a melodic path that seems to chart irresistible waters, only
there are accents of foghorn-like brass undermining the romantic swirl, and we sense that
there are U-boats beneath the waves of strings.
The score does have its moments of pure drama, like the relentless pizzicato stabs of
Police Chase, and the sly, perhaps ironic, Bond-like flourish that serves as the coda to
The Train; but it is there delivery in measured doses that draws taught a quiet tension.
Complementing Barry’s score are three additional tracks, unobtrusively positioned
after the End Credits cue. A brass band double-time jazz ditty and the achingly poignant
You’ll Never Know -- replete with the authentic old crackle of 1940s radio or vintage
record player – are nostalgic and touching, while Vaughan Williams string variation
of Dives & Lazarus is simply a masterpiece.
You mightn’t find quite what you expect on this soundtrack. But just like
Bletchley Park it is a quiet, yet Colossal achiever.
Published February 21, 2002