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Hummingbird (Dario Marianelli)

July 9, 2013

cover_hummingbirdHUMMINGBIRD

Dario Marianelli, 2013, Metropolis Movie Music/UMGI – Fontana International
14 tracks, 45:29

Making his directorial debut, Steven Knight tells the gritty story of a traumatised war veteran who turns drug addict, ends up taking on someone’s else identity and subsequently becoming an avenger. Dario Marianelli, known primarily for his romantic scores, delivers a nervy, restraint score.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Steven Knight (screenwriter for “Eastern Promises”, “Amazing Grace”, “Dirty Pretty Things”), the gritty thriller “Hummingbird” stars Jason Statham as Joey, a traumatised ex-special forces war veteran who ends up homeless and a drug addict. Navigating London’s criminal underground, he takes on someone else’s identity and turns into an avenger of sorts. The film also goes by the title “Redemption” and employs a talented if relatively unknown cast, with Vicky McClure (“This is England”) and Benedict Young (“Sunshine”, “Prometheus”) likely to be the stand-out names. So far, the flick seems to be receiving moderate-to-positive reviews, with Statham being commended for taking on a more in-depth role than he is typically known for.

What does it sound like?

Albeit it as a screenwriter, Steven Knight has seen his work accompanied by scores from composers such as Howard Shore (“Eastern Promises”) and David Arnold (“Amazing Grace”). For his directorial debut he turns to the Oscar-winning Dario Marianelli.

The Italian-born composer (known primarily for his romantic and dramatic music for “Atonement” and “Pride & Prejudice”) delivers a score that seems to reflect the main character’s anguish and desolation. The opening track “Chase” comprises of pained string writing and jazz-like hi-hat riffs, this continues in the second track (and in fact throughout the album); with cues like “Cash!” featuring a syncopated staccato string motif. A theme is not instantly recognisable. Instead, the whole score is made up from ‘see-sawing’ motifs; be it in the strings, piano or other instruments. This undulating motion in the writing is what binds this score together; more so than any thematic material. “Getting Better” does present a recognisable theme, in the form of a cello melody that centers around a floaty 5-note sequence. “Do You Want to Work” sees the strings intensify and the percussion expanded with sampled loops; similar to what you’d expect from Craig Armstrong. And come to think of it… if only through typecasting, you’d sooner expect the Scottish composer (or perhaps a Chris Young) to be attached to this type of thriller rather than Marianelli. Being the craftsman that he is though, Marianelli has no trouble delivering a convincing effort in this genre.

Strings and cello continue to dominate the album; along with piano, some woodwinds, subtle synths and percussion. Virtually each instrument playing a circular motif, never really breaking out into a full-blown theme. It makes the score feel suitably unnerving and restrained, like a prisoner of its own set restrictions. Very much in line with Statham’s character’s mind-set I would imagine.

“Isabel is Dead”, pardon the potential spoiler, features an electric cello; whilst “The Italian Restaurant” with its heavy circular string writing may recall the works of Michael Nyman. In later cues an electric piano appears, further enhancing the jazzy atmosphere already set by the hi-hat rhythms, without actually becoming a jazz score.

There is an early break (track 4) from Marianelli’s somber tones in the form of the lyrical Bulgarian folk song “Malka Moma Si Se Bogu Moli” performed by the Philip Koutev National Folk Ensemble featuring soloist Neli Andreeva. Whilst comparisons may be somewhat unfair, the high-pitched vocals and eastern European intonation will undoubtedly recall the works of Karl Jenkins for most listeners.

Is it any good?

On the surface this may come across as a low-key effort; and its deliberate restraint may just prevent it from being overtly enjoyable for some. However, dig deeper and Marianelli’s clever and complex writing will become apparent (as ever). Technically you can’t fault “Hummingbird”; and emotionally it does everything it is supposed to do. The light percussion being particularly refreshing compared to the thunderous drums that seem so prominent on so many scores these days. It’s not Marianelli’s most accessible score, though it is by no means a difficult one. It may not offer the instant gratification of a strong theme (the folk song being the exception), but those who take the time to sit down and listen to it will be rewarded.

Rating [3/5]

Tracklisting

1. Chased (2:13)
2. The Apartment (2:31)
3. Cash! (1:12)
4. Malka Moma Si Se Bogu Moli (2:56) *
5. Getting Better (4:02)
6. Do You Want To Work? (2:13)
7. Joey’s Career (4:51)
8. Isabel Is Dead (3:41)
9. The Italian Restaurant (2:48)
10. Nun in Red (1:59)
11. The Lorry (5:04)
12. Crazy Patch (2:33)
13. At the Ballet (3:55)
14. Hummingbirds (5:31)

* (Neli Andreeva / Georgi Genov Dario Marianelli; feat. Philip Koutev National Folk Ensemble, Georgi Genov, Philip Koutev)

Album credits

Album credits on allmusic.com

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