iTunes (U.S.)
eBay (U.S.)
Glisten Effect
Editorial Reviews
Scoreboard Forum
Viewer Ratings
     1. Avengers: Endgame
    2. Shazam!
   3. Dumbo
  4. Captain Marvel
 5. HTTYD: The Hidden World
6. The Lego Movie 2
         1. Batman
        2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
       3. Apollo 13
      4. Edward Scissorhands
     5. How to Train Your Dragon
    6. Jurassic World: Kingdom
   7. First Man
  8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
 9. Justice League
10. Ready Player One
Home Page
Menu Options ▼
Comments about the soundtrack for On the Beach (2000) (Christopher Gordon)

Edit | Delete
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Timothy Turner   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, September 7, 2008, at 5:24 p.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Timothy Turner was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in September, 2008)

On the Beach: (Christopher Gordon) With all the high profile films and endless discussions on whether it was Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams or James Horner who wrote the best film score of the year 2000. It is very easy to overlook the made for TV movie On the Beach, scored by a not so well know composer, Christopher Gordon, with only one other score that has been composed being Moby Dick. I have not seen the movie as of writing this review, but from reading summaries on the web and from track listings of the CD it was easy to get a strong idea of the entire film. On the Beach is a cable TV remake of the 1959 film. The story is about a war between America and China that results in world destruction because of a radioactive cloud that has been generated that's spreading across the globe destroying all life in its path. The only remaining country left is Australia, which only has two months before the cloud arrives. The focus point of both the film and Christopher Gordon's emotional score is how a few people spend the remaining days of their lives before the total end of mankind.

A story as tragic as this needs a highly emotional and tragic score and this is exactly what composer Christopher Gordon did. On the Beach is a score for a large orchestra with emphasis on strings, cello, and viola. There are essential moments with solo performances on harp, piano, trumpet, a boy soprano, and chorus. In the review I will try, my best to summarize the brilliance of Gordon's music, which is highly effective, even outside the movie. The score is broken into five suites after opening with the powerful "The World at War", an overture perhaps of the actual war between America and China. In the epic scaled cue, two motifs are introduced. The first is what I would like to think of as the "war motif" or "submarine theme." Its and ominous 8-note motif performed on low brass and sometimes deep strings that appears in many key moments of the score when ever something suspenseful takes place. The second motif is a heroic one, a victorious theme on brass that concludes the overture. This motif appears a few more times throughout the score, and brings a since of hope and accomplishment of the characters.

In the first suite, titled "Melbourne" the meat of the score begins as more themes that are important are introduced. The news of the radioactive cloud heading towards Australia seems to already been broken. In "A Matter of Months" what I will call the 'doom theme' appears on a solo cello. This theme appears in a few places. It is a mournful theme emphasizing helplessness, and the approaching destruction. The rendition of this theme in the final suite "Burial Cloud" is intense and may bring a tear to ones eyes. "The Decommission" introduces the regret theme on a solo trumpet after a 30-second snare drum sequence. The theme appears only two or three times in the score. I believe it underlines the regret and guilt a few characters in the military have for there actions, in the nuclear war. One of my favorite moments is the last section of this suite "Through the Darkness" After a long and mournful intro of the suite, the strings begins to swell and a new mood is introduced. The music describes the characters need to move on with their lives and not worry about the their fate. This is a very touching and uplifting moment, and on CD, it sounds beautiful.

The second suite On the Beach begins with a certain turn. "Moira and Towers Meet" is an almost bright and adventurous cue introducing what I believe is the Love theme, which is the highlight theme of the entire score. The variations on this theme are sometimes stunning.The theme gets a full cello, strings performance in the touching cue "On the Jetty", and is a highlight in itself. In "The Great Ocean Road" a more powerful full string and woodwind rendition is given. Each variation is better than the next. This suite is the follow-up to the uplifting "Through the Darkness", since there are not any mournful aspects, everything seems a lot brighter than the first suite. However, it ends on a sad note. In "The beginning of the End" a portion of the doom theme returns, as the realization of the coming death is closer.

In the third suite "Message from the North" plans have began to seek out a place where there is less radiation, where a selected number of people may be able to survive. In "Voyage North" the submarine theme returns as a submarine sets out to the get reports of the conditions in the North Pole. The heroic theme also returns but this time in a less fanfare way, as with its first performance in "The World at War." This time it is nobler as people put faith in the submarine quest. Obviously, the quest to the North Pole fails. In "Anchorage", one of the longest cues on the CD, disaster happens. A full rendition of the doom theme comes in and ends with a dramatic climax, later in the track suspense build up, stings start to swirl and snare drums begin to flare, and the cue end in that fashion.

Continuing on the same note as "Anchorage", the suite "San Francisco" begins. Since disaster has happened at the North Pole, the decision is to discover to condition of San Francisco. As the submarine rises the "Alien Landscape" of San Francisco is met with Gordon's unique dissonant music. It begins with a ton of banging percussion, and dissonant strings and brass, as the crew sees the terrifying site of the disintegrated and lifeless city. Then something happens, a strong and powerful rendition of the regret theme returns. It is easy to imaging the awe-strucked marines as they have now fully realized what they have done, and the true out come of the war. The music brings a since of panic. In "The Vote" something else happens. I do not know what, but Gordon manages to give the heroic theme its most heartfelt and most emotional rendition ever. He totally removes the heroism and makes it something totally, tragically touching. I often like to repeat this little part repeatedly before continuing. This type of scoring makes you very curious as to what is going on screen. Brilliant!

The final suite "The Burial Cloud" is noted to be the climax of the score. As all hope is gone, and there is nothing for the submarine crew to do but turn around and go back to Australia, to bring the news and wait for the cloud to arrive. "Hirsch" is a cue that reminds me of Christopher Young's Murder in the First for its orchestration with strings and sorrowful cello. "Flight through the Apostles" begins with a gorgeous rendition of the love theme with the full orchestra. The use of brass makes this section sounds huge. This same cue also contains "Elegy" which as I mentioned earlier contains that tear jerking extended rendition of the doom theme. Its contains nothing but cello and quiet string chords over a slow drumbeat. Then the "Final Farewells" which is more brilliant string writing of the love theme. This cue has the same brilliance as John Williams' "Leaving Home" from Superman. For me the score ends here, as far as the film goes. Nevertheless, the CD concludes a choral piece, "Lacorimosa", and a solo boy soprano for "Lux Perpetua" as a memorial for the now distinct mankind. The final cue "From the Beach, Silently Weeping" which is a soft piece with strings woods winds and choir that closes the score with several of the emotional themes.

It is a shame that this score is so underrated. It is not even considered as at least a contender to the best score of 2000. To me it truly is the best of 2000, as far as originality, sophistication, the emotional turn it has on me and how it plays as an album compared to the other scores by those so called A-Class composers. A few months ago (still in 2000), this score was reported to only have sold embarrassingly low 137 copies. I believe that is a real insult to Christopher Gordon. The blame may go in the film and score's promotion. For one thing, the movie aired on Showtime, which is a channel that carries extra charges than the basic cable, which a majority of people including myself doesn't have. So there was no way of learning about the airing of the movie. Then if you have ever walked in the music store and seen the cover to On the Beach, you would see that cover is horrible! It looks like a cover to a comedy film based in the army! Therefore, it is understandable for someone to see it and pass it by. I encourage everyone to get this soundtrack before it disappears, and give it sometime time to grow on you, and it will. It is a long score so I recommend listen to it in parts to avoid loosing interest as it does move slowly sometimes because of the flow of the movie. However, in the end you will not be disappointed! On the Beach gets a golden 5-stars rating from me. *****

Copyright © 1998-2019, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. Scoreboard created 7/24/98 and last updated 4/25/15.