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Soundtrack review: Commando (James Horner, 1985, 2011)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Commando (James Horner, 1985, 2011)


It’s about time James Horner made an appearance in my reviews. He’s one of my favorite composers and there’s a treasure chest of works to go through. It’s 80s weekend, and I’m still in an action hero mood, so it’s time to talk about the score of “Commando”.
Again, it’s a score that throws me right back into my childhood. I was a little too young when the movie came out, but I did get to watch it, and it’s among my first memories related to a movie…I remember two things the most: first, the beginning of the movie, the scene where Arnold comes down a mountain carrying a huge log, the shot of his muscles, and my impression back then that this guy wasn’t human, he must have been a super hero of some sort; then the fact that I had no idea what “Commando” meant, and I asked my parents about that. It puzzled me even more when they told me that Commando wasn’t the name of the main character, it was something different. Almost all the characters in the movie were actually commandos, so the movie might have been also named after the bad guys? That’s not easy to comprehend for a small kid…
I also remember the music. The general theme of the score easily stuck with me. It’s simple but catchy, and I marvel at James Horner’s action style from the 80s, so brilliant, yet so different from the orchestral wonders I got to know him for later.
The score is based on simple percussion rhythm (Horner uses steel drums), but it’s extremely effective and when I hear it, I know it’s from Commando, it has a precise identity. There’s always a sense of urgency in the music, as if it’s rushing Arnold’s character, keeping him alert in his race against the clock.
There aren’t a lot of different themes in this score, it gets pretty repetitive at some point, but to me, it’s awesome. When I hear this rhythm over and over again, I get the same sensation I used to have as a kid eating many many servings of my favorite desert. Yes it was the same thing, but it didn’t lose its taste and appeal if I ate five pieces at a time. 
“Don’t disturb my friend” is my favorite cue of the score. It’s probably because the steel drums click the best with the synthesizer in this one.  There’s an extra funky touch on this track which makes me single it out. On the extended version of the score, released by La La Land records in 2011 there are two alternate versions of this cue which also sound very well.
Commando is one of the movies and scores with the highest sentimental value to me, and I return to them quite often with the same pleasure.
My ratings for the extended version:
Cue rating : 83 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 49 / 62
Album excellence: 80%

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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