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Soundtrack review: Backdraft (Hans Zimmer, 1991)

Film scores Hans Zimmer

Soundtrack review: Backdraft (Hans Zimmer, 1991)


I have great memories about Backdraft. Loved the movie, loved the actors and the plot. When I took a trip to the States with my family 15 years ago, one of our favorite experiences at the Universal Studios was the Backdraft ride, where they simulated the special effects: they showed us how they maneuvered and controlled the fire right where they filmed the climax of the movie. Director Ron Howard chose Hans Zimmer for this, and we got another great 90s action score for Zimmer. This one though is not part of his fully developed action sound string of scores. It’s simpler and more dramatic.
What sets this score apart from some of the other Zimmer 90s action gems though is its theme power. If the strength of scores like Crimson Tide and The Peacemaker lies in their unity and the overall listening experience and not in standout tracks, the situation is different with Backdraft. Here, we get a couple of brilliant and timeless themes and a few cues that are easier to forget. The action part of the score is good, but still sounds like work in progress sometimes, like Hans was experimenting with the sound. Having said that, most of the time Backdraft is actually more melodic and easily hummable then many of the 90s scores he composed.
This brings me to the two gorgeous themes:   “Fighting 17th” and, especially “Show me your fire truck” (which has become an easily recognizable firefighting anthem since then). They are both heroic and engaging; I can almost see the flags rising when I hear them. In Backdraft we get the first proper Hans Zimmer hero themes, and I absolutely love them. I couldn’t imagine more appropriate anthems for a movie about fire fighters.
Listening to Backdraft is like looking at Picasso’s early draw sketches: you see the immense talent and skill and genius that lie there, even if not fully developed yet.  I listen to “Show me your fire truck” and I have a vision of one of the first beads in a long and endless string…
My ratings:
Cue rating: 82 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 58 / 69
Album excellence: 85%
Cues to listen to (for the complete version):
Main Titles
Fighting 17th
Late for Work
Mannequin Fire
Show Me Your Firetruck
Love & Danger
Fire Is a Living Thing
I Really Miss You
Torn Apart
You Go, We Go
Main Titles (remix)
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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