“The Unknown Known (2013)”
Soundtrack Album Review
Music By Danny Elfman
La-La Land Records
25 Tracks/Disc Time: 60:00
Documentary films are always fascinating to watch ever since the very first crossover mainstream one that was a surprise hit in Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me” in 1989 and the brilliant and unforgettable real life story of two young aspiring NBA players in “Hoop Dreams”, which is still the greatest film I’ve ever seen in my view. Other documentaries of note soon came after such as “Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control”, “Bowling For Columbine”, “Standard Operating Procedure”, “An Inconvienent Truth”, “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Super Size Me”, that would transcend the art house screens into mainstream theaters and with surprising box office results. Acclaimed filmmaker Errol Morris is one of the more respected documentarians around with well reviewed film such as “Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control” and “The Fog Of War”. Now comes this film based on Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The film is interesting portrait of a man who pretty much is disliked by an entire nation but the documentary from what I’ve read doesn’t answer the real tough questions about what happend during his tenure which Morris didn’t really get too deep on. This doesn’t reflect however in Danny Elfman’s music in which he literally plays the straight man in the documentary. The former Academy Award nominee previously wrote the score to Morris’ “Standard Operating Procedure” which was a very intriguing and effective score that was as effective as his excellent music for the IMAX film “Deep Blue 3D”. Elfman takes a rather classical approach to this score as he had done for those previous documentaries which were very effective. However, this score feels like you’ve been back to familiar territory and really isn’t breaking new ground musically despite that there some nice stand out tracks to be had.
From the opening strains of “Theme From Unknown Known” with its’ classical structure consisting of violins, piano and woodwinds, Elfman establishes an darkly complex atmosphere that will remind most of his brilliant score to “A Simple Plan” with the six flute motif from that score replaced with cellos which are very effective. There are some nicely hued moments that make this score effective such as the angelic chorus of “Two Sides” which acts like the anchor to “Rummy’s Theme”, the infusion of percussion with “Marmimba Foghorn”, to the darkly overtones of “Drones” which feature an electronic beat that similar to that of morse code which is inventive and the strained cellos of “Snowflake” and “Smokers” which are right of his regular film scores such as “Dolores Claiborne” and “Extreme Measures”. “What You Know”, “Absence Of Evidence” and “The Resignation” are also nice highlights mixing piano solos and more nice string work to compliment the material I mentioned.
La-La Land’s release is plentiful and at times, engaging listen that feature Elfman doing some very solid creative work. Yet, i wasn’t truly involved with the score and really couldn’t open a real musical door that was accessible to the material. I love Elfman’s work without question and unfortunately, this isn’t one of his best. It’s definitely interesting but not a great work. I definitely commend his great efforts for trying with this film, but for me it doesn’t quite measure up what he’s always capable of doing which is writing memorable scores. Reluctant thumbs down.