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ENIGMA: SOUNDTRACK

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

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TITLE: Enigma

ID: 467 864-2
COMPOSER/CONDUCTOR: John Barry

ADDITIONAL MUSIC: DeSylvia/Brown/Henderson; Warren; Vaughan Williams TRACKS: 22







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