Phipps has created a fantastic, enveloping score, suitably dark and threatening.
Mike Diver 2011
Martin Phipps writes, in the liner notes to this soundtrack release, that his score to Rowan Joffe’s reimagining of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, first brought to the screen in 1947, needed to be dark and lovely. And it is both of these things – rich and sumptuous of tone and depth, but full of malevolence. Spread across these cues are instances of real threat, of creeping dread; shadows that seem too long, too dark. It’s a fascinating, enveloping listen.
Of course, Phipps’ score is well matched to the story it accompanies. The setting may have shifted, from the 1930s to the mods-and-rockers warfare of the 1960s, but Joffe’s telling of Greene’s 1938-published novel retains the noir aspects of the Richard Attenborough-starring Brit classic. Of course, it doesn’t have the impact of its predecessor, but it’s a riveting, raucous thriller nonetheless. And Phipps cunningly utilises beauty to heighten the more macabre elements of his arrangements. By employing an all-girl choir of individuals aged between six and 18 on a number of pieces, there’s innocence conveyed – an innocence there to be corrupted, to be taken advantage of. When this choir – the Brighton Festival Youth Choir – combines with the BBC Concert Orchestra on Pinkie Brown, the effect is immediately arresting. It’s a rabbit-in-the-headlights moment – and the listener is the wee bunny about to get squashed.
The Chamber Orchestra of London brings a little lightness to proceedings come Ida, and they take a turn for the mournful on the following Lovely Pint, a bare-bones affair penned not by Phipps but by Harry Brown composer Ruth Barrett. The final instrumental, Rose Wilson, is a breezy, summery listen, a world away from the gloom that opened this soundtrack. Focusing on Andrea Riseborough’s confused, but ultimately pure, character rather than Sam Riley’s Pinkie, it sings with an optimism largely absent elsewhere. As the curtain falls, Richard Hawley’s There’s a Storm a’Comin’ provides the as-the-credits-roll sing-along, a dark-of-tone but skippingly upbeat number that twangs with authentic 60s analogue warmth. "You’re a bad man to hurt her so," he sings – yes, and a bad man who deservedly gets what’s coming.
An accomplished, effective set, Phipps’ work here ranks among his best – and considering that best has previously won him Ivor Novello Awards, for high-profile television work, that’s far from empty praise.