It is an extremely unusual occurrence – in fact I don’t know that I can name another time I’ve found this to be the case – but sometimes a film score works better than the film it was created to highlight. Richard Marvin’s composition work on the sci-fi actioner Surrogates is such a case. Where the movie, starring a haggard Bruce Willis as an FBI agent hellbent on uncovering a vast conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels, felt unfortunately lackluster and increasingly ill-conceived, Marvin’s score is dynamic and well-developed throughout, providing solid themes and thrillingly climactic moments.

Incidentally, Surrogates is the the fifth film that director Jonathan Mostow and composer Richard Marvin have collaborated on. As Mostow’s repuatation has increased over the years, so have the budgets of their collaborations: from the 1991 made-for-tv movie Flight of the Black Angel to the Kurt Russell thriller Breakdown to 2000’s U-571, though the 2007 made-for-tv movie Them may be seen as a slight bump in the road for the duo. But Marvin hasn’t just been relying on Mostow for work, working extensively in television and film on his own as well, including work on Six Feet Under, Without A Trace, and The O.C.

The 41 minutes of music that Marvin has provided here is unabashedly sci-fi, combining electronic sounds with the work of the Hollywood Studio Symphony’s complete orchestra. There’s also the requisite female vocals on the opening track (“Pix Title Sequence”) that help set the stage for the dramatic futuristic tracks to come. But Marvin doesn’t just stick with the familiar action sequences expected in a score for a film like this, though there’s plenty of that to be heard on such tracks as “Warrant Received/Foot Chase” and “T-Bone/Stone Zapped,” among others. But in “I Want You” Marvin delves deeper into the emotional loneliness of a world filled with robotic surrogates with gently rising strings and a few tenderly played piano notes. Similarly Marvin plays up the quiet eeriness rather than the inherent action in such tracks as “Drive to Club” and “Prophet Lies/Greer Rides.” It’s his ability to mix up the standard sci-fi setup that earns Marvin high ratings for his well-done score to a not-very-well-received film. At times the tracks can become a bit repetitive – especially in the lengthy “Shift Enter,” but overall Surrogates is a pleasant listen, and definitely more enjoyable as a collection of music than as a film.

Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Those who may not have enjoyed the film as much as they expected
Stay Away if: You’re looking for more classically enjoyable film scores

To purchase the soundtrack from Surrogates, visit Amazon

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