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by Laura Kyle

I don’t know a good deal about composer John Murphy. This is probably because he hails from the UK and wouldn’t know a good American film if it bit him in the bum. (I turn your attention to exhibit A, The Perfect Score.) But after his 2002 outing with director Danny Boyle, I’m watching his every move. Frankly, his score to 28 Days Later is one of the most original and effective I’ve ever heard. No wonder Boyle employed his services again for Millions (this is their fourth project together).

Murphy must’ve taken a few cues from Danny Elfman, because his opening track, “House Building,” reveals his music can swim right along with Elfman’s Big Fish (more so Edward Scissor-Hands, but that doesn’t work as well with the “swim” metaphor).

“House Building” is a mischievous, and altogether enchanting piece that perfectly initiates listeners into the magical journey that is Millions. All the elements of the film – a childlike innocence and curiosity mixed in with a very real danger – are present. A steady violin builds upon the opening bells and eventually it all gives way to a beautiful melody – voices, strings, and winds taking over – until it finally quiets down and gets ready for the film to begin.

“House Building” is followed up with my favorite song featured in Millions – “Blackout,” by English rock band Muse. Mathew Bellamy’s tender, sleepy vocals are accompanied by an orchestral waltz of sorts. And there’s almost a hint to the introduction of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” in there as well. Bellamy sings, “don’t grow up too fast,” and if a moviegoer takes just one message away from Millions, that’s most likely to be it.

Murphy’s “St. Francis of Assisi” elaborates on “House Building” a little and then it’s “Tumble and Fall” by another British band, Feeder, a group that’s been hanging around in 2005, despite the death of founding member/drummer Jon Lee. “Tumble and Fall” is hardly a standout on the otherwise ear-grabbing soundtrack, but it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of either.

“Moving In/Lost Boy 1” is really the only song you could match up with Murphy if all you had heard from the composer was his music to 28 Days Later. It’s electronic and piano driven, starting out with an adventurous, busy melody, only to transition into an ominous retread of earlier themes.

“St Nicholas/Damien and the Donkey Escape” and “The Old House/In the Attic” are a sweet, thoughtful, midway pause in the Millions soundtrack, and reminiscent of John Williams’ Home Alone score (“Somewhere In My Memory” to be specific) and James Newton Howard’s more recent music to Peter Pan. There’s softness to these songs that mirror those calmer moments from 28 Days Later too.

And it’s of particular notice that Murphy’s string melodies and rhythms are very similar to Jan Kaczmareck’s Oscar-winning Finding Neverland score!

Screw Murphy’s Law; it looks like John’s got a handle on this film-composing thing.

Thankfully, the Millions soundtrack doesn’t get any less British as it goes on – but in addition to the newer UK bands, for old time’s sake we’ve got a small outfit you may have heard of, The Clash, with “Hitsville U.K.” Either Boyle wanted this in his film for mere effect and atmosphere (I’m not really sure what relevance it has to the story or characters), or an appearance by The Clash just went well with the idealistic spirit that’s captured in Millions. Either way, it's a good tune.

“Chuggers/Sterling/Lost Boy 2” marks the more threatening turn of events in Millions and begins as a sad reflection upon this, segueing into more familiar territory, Murphy’s musical foundation of the film increasingly powerful.

In the 10th spot, we’ve got some filler, a dance/techno and largely instrumental number, “Brazil,” by S’Express.

“Ransacked” is next, Murphy continuing to tell the story incredibly well… he takes on one instrument at a time here (for the most part), signifying an end to his participation on the soundtrack.

If you don’t investigate the credits on the album, you may mistake Vangelis’ “La Petite Fille de la Mer” for more of Murphy’s score. I suspect Murphy was indeed influenced by it though, under Boyle’s direction, or perhaps Murphy conducted Vangelis’ music to better fit the movie. I’m afraid I’m not familiar enough with the European composer beyond “Chariots of Fire” to make a reasonable guess about this.

After leaving the cinema, the tune that most promises to stick in your head is probably the final track, “Nirvana,” by El Bosco. While it could easily sit alongside an Enya song in a New Age collection of music, it’s unique to the movie. I’m not sure if you’ll reach nirvana by listening to it, but Millions certainly takes you out with quite a joyous piece (it features a Spanish children’s choir). I’m not sure what’s being sung in it exactly, but it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Just as the movie did.

Pity Millions didn’t grace US screens during the winter months, Christmas; these tracks would have a whole other, much deeper context to them if it had. Ditto the movie as a whole.

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originally posted: 04/27/05 15:34:37
last updated: 04/27/05 15:46:49
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