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Comments about the soundtrack for A Civil Action (Danny Elfman)
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review

Heath Chamerski
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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review   Saturday, April 7, 2007 (2:55 p.m.) 

(The following donated review by Heath Chamerski was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in April, 2007)

A Civil Action: (Danny Elfman) A Civil Action is a very strange score indeed. It could be called a sequel to Elfman's Good Will Hunting, except that it incorporates many other elements into the unique sound of this score. There are the bass guitars which featured so heavily in Men in Black, the piano solos that have punctuated Elfman's work for years now and finally, a couple of moments of pure Elfman music, which means out of control noise. Elfman came into this project after Ennio Morrocone left. It would be interesting to see if Morrocone had written music for the film already and if it influenced Elfman's own score, because it sounds unlike anything Elfman has ever done before.

There are many elements that make this an interesting (if not classic) score. There is a great theme introduced in the second track "Civil Theme", and the theme for John Travolta's character "Walkin'" is featured in many different forms all throughout the score. This score, while sounding occasionally like Good Will Hunting (Elfman's use of the choir in this score is where it sounds most similar), is still extremely different, mainly due to the way in which the individual tracks are scored. The music is excellent on its own, but the score as a whole just doesn't gell, and doesn't really add up to a cohesive whole. But having said that, Elfman has still composed an effective and unique score.

The score does have its shortcomings though. Some of the tracks are not really music at all, just noise. Elfman has been guilty of this in the past, but here it is noticable and there are a couple of moments that don't quite work. "Night Work" in particular begins extremely well, but then turns into a mess of noises and notes, which ruins the effective orchestral work that Elfman has done previously. The tracks are mostly all inconsistent. The music seems to be swinging between two distinct styles, Elfman's older style with wild noise and notes, and his newer, more dramatic style featured in scores like Article 99 and Sommersby. For this score though, there is a great deal of music that doesn't work and doesn't suit the film at all. Elfman would have been better suited to apply a pure dramatic score for this film, rather than veering between the two styles he has used, which while certainly different and original, is somewhat frustrating for the listener.

This score seems to be a battle of two distinct styles, with most of Elfman's trademark music in tracks 1-11, and tracks 12-22 most of his purely dramatic music. Special mention must be made of the "End Credit Suite" which sounds more like a gospel number than Elfman music, as it makes you realise the diversity of Elfman's writing, and that whether you think that his scores are good or bad, nobody can deny that he is the most original and perhaps best composer working today. ****

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