Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






The Informant!: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The Informant! (2009)

Music composed and conducted by Marvin Hamlisch.

14 Tracks (Playing Time = 37:23)

Music orchestrated by Larry Hochman. Music edited by Missy Cohen. Also includes the song “Trust Me” by Marvin Hamnlisch sung by Steve Tyrell.

New Line Records 39160

Rating: ****

Digital Download


THE INFORMANT! is Steven Soderbergh’s latest film featuring a portly Matt Damon as a whistleblower at Archer Daniels Midland. The film is based on the true story of Damon’s character, Mark Whitacre, as he blurs the lines between reality and his own active imagination causing no end of frustration for the FBI in the process. It might be hard to believe, but the score comes from veteran composer Marvin Hamlisch who has not written a film score in over a decade (the last time was THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES in 1996). That alone is cause for celebration, though the name recognition for the composer would be greater in the hard copy world making the digital download a tad frustrating for the technologically challenged but it would be well worth the effort.

The opening title track is a grand piano and orchestra piece in a classic Hollywood sound (i.e., THE APARTMENT) that could make this yet another classic concert piece for the composer (a solo piano version also appears). A retro jazz sound appears as well in “Meet Mark,” “The Raid,” “After Car” and elsewhere where you would swear you were discovering some 1960s sound somewhere between Herb Alpert and a lost Quincy Jones album (i.e, Big Band Bossa Nova). There is even a wonderfully dead on parody of Barry’s James Bond music in “Car Meeting” which introduces a melodic thread that will recur in the album. And when was the last time you heard a jazz organ in a score? Hamlisch’s versatility in these styles is a reminder to the composer’s 1970s work. But there are sensitive moments as well like the lushly-scored “Boxes” which revisits the main theme. Another great new melodic idea in a gorgeous full jazz piano and instrumental arrangement is “Trust Me” which is another simply perfect piece of music on its own featuring muted trumpet later appearing in a full big band version featuring Steve Tyrell.

There were times when almost every score released was filled with signs of the composer’s talent. These days we call those re-issues, but THE INFORMANT! reminds us of a day when well-composed music was the norm and not the exception.

The music ends up being one of the first truly enjoyable score discs after a dearth of mediocre summer scores. Its retro feel will have you tapping your toes and recalling those albums of the 11950s and 960s of jazzy Hollywood crossover soundtrack discs.

With a host of awards to his name and over 40 scores under his belt, Hamlisch did not need to prove anything here, just remind us how great film music can be and make us hope he can be coaxed out to write a few more scores down the road.

THE INFORMANT! is already up for a Golden Globe award for best score and is likely on the short list for nominees for Oscar contention.

Steven A. Kennedy , 30 December 2009

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