FourScore Match-Up #13: “The Spy Who Loved Me”

Different scores for different spies. The film world is chock full of secret and double agents both great and small. From covert operative to fire-and-forget sleuths of the incendiary kind, these masters of disguise are really only as good as their orchestra. Sometimes a spy film calls for things to be slow and low yet other times a preponderance of bass is needed to aid in their bombastic exploits. Yet, like the old saying goes, you really do need to the right tool for the job.

The following composers are equally skilled and succeed in making their respective spies seem larger than life. While they’re all great, today’s FourScore looks to find the best of the best and the one who truly inspires Carly Simon to sing her iconic song. We too want to know who “does it better” and how they each “learn to do the things you do“?? Is it the nimble acrobatic agent with a knack for explosive entrances and exits? Is it the lightning fast government operative with the spotty memory? Is it the world’s most famous love ’em and leave ’em British Double 0 agent? Or is the story of a young pup learning the old dog’s spy tricks?? Find out after the jump…

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Mission Impossible II – Hans Zimmer has a one of a kind sound that makes other composers drool. Better still is that his work is dynamic and different every single at bat. Giving M:I 2 a very worldly sound he again delivers a high energy score that really puts you in the action. But doing a 180 here, much of the work is a little slower than we’re used to hearing (read: The Rock, this is not).  The Flamenco-infused soundtrack combined with Lisa Gerrard (his secret weapon) help give the M:I series a fresh new sound. Some may have issues with this particular work and you can certainly laugh at the dated portions of Tom Cruise’s 123 minute ego trip but you can’t say the Hans doesn’t deliver the goods.

(Favorite Tracks: SevilleAmbrose and Mano A Mano)

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Goldfinger – John Barry’s work for the 007 series, especially Goldfinger defined 60s and spy films from here on in. Breezy and almost untouchable it fit James like his tailored suits. But as spy films have evolved over the years (aside from pure nostalgia) it’s almost laughable how carefree it all seems now. The 007 series prides itself on James constantly laughing in the face of danger but while the music is right there with him. Bond may take it easy having a drink before foes on their quest to world domination but the dynamic and playful/suspenseful presence of Barry is all business.

(Favorite Tracks: Into MiamiAlpine Drive and The Laser Beam)

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The Bourne Series – John Powell’s work here transcends other spy films. He gives us a white knuckle experience while  grounding Jason Bourne in reality. No martinis here, Powell, like Bourne, is just full-on efficiency by any means necessary. A welcomed change of pace from in your face spy flicks, there are long bouts of down time that Powell is able to explore and develop an effective and emotionally pensive sound. Then, like Bourne himself, when the fur starts flying he’s on in a flash. Unassuming but effective, just what you’d expect of a spy…and a composer.

(Favorite Tracks: Treadstone Assassins, Bourne on Land and The Apartment)

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Spy Game – Not as well known at the other Williams out there, Harry Gregson-Williams has made some great music for famous films that you probably didn’t realize. His themes are quick, vibrant and while the story didn’t really go anywhere it was Williams’ score that kept it interesting. Going for that late 90’s edgy techno influence it is a tad dated but it, like Pitt in the film, got the job done.

(Favorite Tracks: Muir Races To WorkThe Long Night and Spies)

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FourScore Ruling:

Most would never bet against the one and only James Bond (or rather, John Barry) but while Barry’s good he doesn’t push the envelope. Spy music can be sly and covert but then like a hair trigger, become a free-wheeling adrenaline rush; a fair amount of both are required to make films like these work. The above quartet flesh out the spy in question brilliantly but the secret agent composer walking away as the spy de jour is the true master of the craft. Known lately for a more focusing on a more chaotic sound (I’m sure in some language Bwaaahhh actually means Inception), here Zimmer gives the most well-rounded score of the bunch. This is a pretty fair fight between the above composers but really, whenever you’re talking about Hans Zimmer, like Carly Simon famously says, “nobody does it better“.

Ethan brings a knife to a gun fight because he knows Hans Zimmer has his back