Guy Michelmore’s rare foray into feature films is a perfect showcase for his grasp of classical and contemporary scoring styles, transposed to a big orchestral setting with memorable themes and clever little allusions to classic war film scores.
The film’s plot – of Britishers mounting a purge against Nazi invaders in London – gave Michelmore full license to create a breezy “Freedom” theme that draws on the cheery melodies of vintage wartime tunes, using woodwinds to instill passion, as well as a slight tongue-in-cheek quality that dominates the score. (The choral version of “Jerusalem,” however, still manages to invoke a bit of sentimentality because of it’s lyrical beauty.)
“Nazis in London” has a wry Burt Bacharach jauntiness with wheezing clarinets, and the cue’s second half – a waltz – pokes fun at Prussian pomposity with delicate woodwinds and a smattering of smashing cymbals. The German national anthem is quoted several times, but it’s also given stealth variations in cues like “Travelling North,” with strings adding an unusual warmth to a theme that’s otherwise recapped for satire.
Michelmore also seems to draw from the canon of Elmer Bernstein (“Punjabi’s Escape from London”), with sets of triplets performed by a large brass section, and chords that accentuate optimism, heroism, and dramatic success in the face of evil. “Where is Winston Churchill?” contains a quotation from Michelmore’s recurring jig, heard in full with woodwind and pounding percussion in "Scottish Attack."
Jackboots on Whitehall is surprisingly grand in scope – “The Battle” is an epic choral piece with thunderous percussion, brass, and wiry electric guitar - but Michelmore’s use of melody and multiple themes allows him to switch gears, moving through suspense, action, satire, and romance, giving the album a rich variety of moods without coming off as mickey-mousy. Half the time it feels like a vintage war score from 1968, but it’s also a welcome change from the batch of pop-centric animated scores of 2010 (such as Megamind), which relied on source songs to support jokes instead of allowing the composer to use his / her own instincts to craft a broader, more cohesive sense of humour.
Michelmore’s background lies in commercial, documentary, videogames, and TV, and Jackboots is a wonderful showcase of his talents, sense of film score history (be it Bernstein, Silvetsri, or Zimmer), and the composer's own wry funny bone.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan