News Archive... AKA The Old Blog

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Review: Beck's 'The Sentinel'

The Sentinel
Music Composed and Produced by Christophe Beck
Disc Rating: ****

The hybrid film score is now the norm in Hollywood. Hybrid scores, of course, are the fusing of electronic elements with acoustic elements… more than just a drum loop thrown in here and there. A real hybrid score by a talented composer contains equal measures of both electronics and orchestra, living together in harmony… uh pun hopefully not intended. Christophe Beck is quickly becoming one of the best in the business at taking these two worlds and fusing them together. 2005's Elektra was one of the best examples of a great hybrid... now we have The Sentinel.

The Sentinel isn't a film that needs a memorable theme, or big orchestrations. It's The Fugitive meets In the Line of Fire meets 24 (why did Kiefer Sutherland agree to be in this film? Did someone trick him by moving him in his 24 trailer onto the Sentinel set?) In these films about a man on the run (Michael Douglas in this case), the rhythm of the score is really the most important aspect. It has to keep running, just like the protagonist. Beck accomplishes this with steady rhythmic loops and percussion, layered on top of each other, swimming around like some well-choreographed water ballet. The production on this score is top notch and often quite hip and inventive, and should be experienced through good speakers.

The acoustic instruments are a sizeable string section and brass section. For a film about the Secret Service, a lot of patriotic trumpet lines are employed, especially in tracks like "Cars and Guns."

Highlights on the album, for me, are "The Mall" which contain some rhythmically interesting string/electronic grooves (reprised again in "The Sentinel"), "Garrison's Polygraph" with some great analog synth patterns, "Fingerprints," "Assassin Down," the list goes on and on. By using new electronic elements from track to track, this album never gets boring, or too repetitive (it does sag slightly in the middle).

Granted, The Sentinel isn't for everyone. If you detest electronic grooves and effects with your orchestra, this album is not for you. This is not your typical Media Ventures hybrid score, though. Ed Shearmur is quoted as saying "It's as much a compositional idea to sit down and be tampering with audio as it is to sit in front of a piano and be writing a melody." (On the Track, Karlin & Wright, p. 374) And he's absolutely correct. A lot of care and "tampering" went into the electronic elements of this score. True, you won't go into your local Tower Records and see piano sheet music for "Theme from the Sentinel" sitting among the John Williams and James Horner offerings, but if you're interested in hearing something fresh and hip, and composed with care, you should give The Sentinel a try.

Review date: June 14, 2006 (to appear on site in next update)