Film composer Éric Serra is probably best known for his work with French filmmaker Luc Besson; however in 1995 he got the chance to score a James Bond film. GoldenEye is an iconic and important Bond film for several reasons… it’s the first to feature Pierce Brosnan in the role, the first Bond film made after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and its video game adaption would become one of the most iconic video games of all time.
The film was well received by both critics and the public, and is still considered by many to be one of the better Bond films that was not derived from any of Ian Fleming’s writings. One component of the film that wasn’t accepted with loving arms was the original score by Serra. The score was completely different from any Bond soundtrack before, or after it. Comprised of heavy synth with limited orchestration sprinkled throughout, critics felt the score didn’t serve the film properly. Richard von Busack famously wrote that the score was “more appropriate for a ride on an elevator than a ride on a roller coaster.”
Perhaps I’m biased because it was my favorite Bond movie growing up, and I played the video game endlessly until my eyes practically bled, like so many other people did. Whatever the case may be, I love Serra’s score. I think it’s one of the best scores a Bond film has ever had. I don’t care if the analog synth textures sound dated and corny, I think it holds up remarkably well. I recently revisited the score after I got thinking about it from playing the video game. Of any Bond film I’ve seen, that score stands out the most.
That deep-sea sonar echo, the brilliantly garish synth horn blasts. It is very much of its time, and yet it works so well. Imagine John Carpenter scoring a James Bond movie, and this is what you’d get. By listening to the Overture you can get the best summary of all the different musical themes and motifs at work. While many critics tried to claim that Serra failed to connect his music to any of the previous Bond movies, you’ll hear plenty of familiar Bond themes throughout the score. They’re repackaged and reconfigured, but still present. On top of reworking those classic musical melodies, Serra manages to create entirely new moments which have now become iconic to those who are familiar with the score.
For the orchestral purists, there’s even some gorgeous string work to be found. I’ll post a link to my favorite bit alongside the Overture below. On top of all these typically conflicting elements, Serra sneaks in some Eyes Wide Shut-inspired choir chants in Russian, to enforce the image of a dissolving Soviet empire. Contrary to popular opinion, I think no other Bond score has better serviced its accompanying film, and no other Bond score has ever given its parent movie such a unique, distinguished identity. Anyway, I’ll include some samples below, but the whole thing is on Spotify should you be curious enough to stream the rest; which I encourage, if you find the time!
Connor – 3.3.17