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Section Header
Presumed Innocent
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
October 26th, 1990

Also See:
Angela's Ashes

Audio Clips:
1. Presumed Innocent (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

3. Family Life (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (241K)
Real Audio (150K)

12. The Basement Scene (0:31):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (247K)
Real Audio (153K)

14. End Credits (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.


Presumed Innocent

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Sales Rank: 195306

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Buy it... if you are open to the idea of hearing a rare, but brilliant entry into the genre of minimalistic suspense by the legendary John Williams.

Avoid it... if you consider Williams' sparsely understated and thematically fragmented scores to be unimpressive and boring.

Presumed Innocent: (John Williams) Director Alan J. Pakula's adaptation of Scott Turow's best-selling novel placed Harrison Ford in a role that was becoming more familiar to him with each passing project. While many will recall his action films before all others, serious movie-goers can remember Ford's phase during which he adequately, if not brilliantly, portrayed a scared man. From Frantic to The Fugitive, Ford successfully expanded his career into the realm of thrillers, with the 1990 film Presumed Innocent representing perhaps the pinnacle of such work. Pakula's storied, but sparse career included a working relationship with composer Michael Small in earlier entries and finished its span of thirty years with contributions by James Horner for the two pictures immediately preceding his death in 1998. Surprisingly, Presumed Innocent would be the director's only film featuring the music of film score legend John Williams. The maestro was about to embark on yet another decade of spectacular film scores, finishing the previous year with multiple Academy Award-nominated works and well on his way into another phase of massive adventure scores of considerable quality. Steamy, adult thrillers weren't among the usual assignments for Williams, whose scores at the time resided closer to more traditional drama and, even more still, action genres. Thus, Presumed Innocent distinguishes itself as a rare stylistic departure for Williams, one that he would unfortunately not further investigate later in the decade. Most Williams fans tend to be perpetually overwhelmed by the composer's ability to present a score that stands well as both its own formidable force in his films on one side and a spectacular album on the other. Differing in its intent is Presumed Innocent, however, and the score's underwhelming aim has often led to its demise in the opinions of film music reviewers. To say that Presumed Innocent is Williams' forgotten masterpiece would be slightly misleading given that so many of his fans and collectors strangely consider the score to be unimpressive, if not boring. Such critics and fans should take another listen to Presumed Innocent, because wrestling within its contents is one of Williams' most skilled presentations of harmony versus disharmony, good versus evil, and confusion versus resolution.

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The film tears at the viewer with questions of morality and murder, building to the gut-wrenching and ultimate destruction of a seemingly happy suburban family. Thus, Williams maintains the score with a single piano at its heart, representing the normal sound of a safe and normal family lifestyle with elegant, though easily manipulated primary and secondary themes. Also of note is a solo horn and timpani in the title theme performances and other cues, both forcefully performing their roles apart from other brass or percussion, leading to the sense of despair and fright on a personal level. Such instrumentation remains consistently simple, yet sharp, with dissonant electronic effects providing a further edge of fright to the mix. More importantly, however (and this is where you have to pay very close attention to the score), is how Williams adapts the themes in the film to the constant battle between passion and terror. Each thematic idea is inherently positive and elegant in its basic construct, meandering on the piano in a dance of sincerity during the few relaxed scenes of the film. As the story unfolds, however, Williams' slowly strips away the harmony from the themes and inserts more troubling off-key instrumentation and subtle mutation of those themes. Finally, as the major confession is presented at the end of the film, Williams' score has completely degenerated into a wash of tingling percussive sounds. The horror thus continues without resolution through the every end of the work, exploding with a powerful, electronically enhanced "End Credits" performance of the themes that punches the audience in the face one last time, relentless driving home the surprise ending after the plot's devastating conclusion. All of this is done with careful, troubled elegance, and all you have to do to appreciate Presumed Innocent is hear how Williams changes the tempo on his piano themes in accordance with the level of fright on the screen at any given moment. One of the more remarkable aspects of the score is the difficulty with which other ensembles toil when attempting to re-record the primary theme; these other groups almost always lose touch with the stark tone of the original performance. Some of the backlash against this score could very well be due to its ability, in its mid-section, to slow to near silent crawl. And yet, if you're tired of hearing the same old Williams action sound, then Presumed Innocent is highly recommended as a stellar, gripping, lesser-known endeavor for the master. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,227 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.48 Stars
Smart Average: 3.34 Stars*
***** 289 
**** 135 
*** 82 
** 98 
* 130 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: Not so great
  Anon -- 1/23/11 (8:03 p.m.)
   Not so great
  Jeremy -- 6/20/08 (8:56 p.m.)
   Michael Small/Alan Pakula
  David -- 12/3/03 (8:41 p.m.)
   Very underrated Williams score
  Gordon Selvig -- 8/4/03 (4:20 p.m.)
   What about Michael Small?
  Gustavo Joseph -- 8/3/03 (6:31 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 43:27

• 1. Presumed Innocent (4:10)
• 2. Remembering Carolyn (2:17)
• 3. Family Life (1:30)
• 4. Love Scene (4:06)
• 5. The B File (3:28)
• 6. The Bedroom Scene (4:20)
• 7. Carolyn's Office (3:24)
• 8. "Leon Talks" (1:59)
• 9. Rusty Accused (2:07)
• 10. Case Dismissed (1:53)
• 11. The Boat Scene (2:15)
• 12. The Basement Scene (2:55)
• 13. Barbara's Confession (5:17)
• 14. End Credits (4:03)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a short note about the score.

  All artwork and sound clips from Presumed Innocent are Copyright © 1990, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 8/18/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.