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Soundtrack review: Cliffhanger (Trevor Jones – 1993)

 

Does the opening theme from “Cliffhanger” sound familiar? Do you feel you’ve heard those mesmerizing horns and sweeping motifs before? Does that triumphant and inspiring melody bring back memories? Of course all of these are true…but when a composer comes up with such a magnificent theme like “Last of the Mohicans” he has every right to recycle parts of it or copy from himself. James Horner does it all the time to a lot of success so why shouldn’t Trevor Jones? It just means we get another gorgeous score…

The movie is “Cliffhanger”, one of my favorite non franchise Sylvester Stallone movies. It’s his “Die Hard” in a way, which finds him as a mountain climber stranded to fight some criminals on the mountain tops. John Lithgow is great as the villain. Sly also co-wrote the script for this one. Trevor Jones’ score got an extended release from Intrada and it is well deserved. This is a score beautiful and perilous as those mountain tops. The melodic parts are epic and the action parts are thrilling. Nothing was spared in writing this score and I come back to it very often.

“Cliffhanger” is not only about that main theme. There is something quite rare about this score, for me…it has a sort of hypnotic effect and it gives me a very special state. It is not among my favorite scores ever but it has its special place just like a bookmark. Listening to the 1.5 hours is a breeze; the action here give me the same feeling as that sensation in the middle of winter when it should be freezing cold and uncomfortable outside but I get out and feel the air is warm and gentle.

There are parts where the action movie has that 60s or 70s disaster movie sound. It has that same echo and instrumentation and I love it. That’s what I hear. Most of the time though the action is lean and powerful like Stallone himself. There’s nothing heavy or pretentious in the music. It’s just pure, thrilling action raised on pillars made from that wonderful main theme.

“Cliffhanger” is a very satisfying action score. Fans of the genre will love it. It also has a very clear identity which is linked to that of the movie. You will know Cliffhanger when you’ll hear it. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 55 / 93

Album excellence: 59%

Highlights:

Cliffhanger Theme

Sarah Slips

Driving Invitation

Being Tracked Matheson Revives

Plane Crash

Qualen in Hut Fireside Chat

Brett’s Death Evan’s Alive

Wolves Away

Qualen’s Timebomb Jessie’s Close Call

Frank’s Demise

Rabbit Hole

Icy Stream Jessie’s Release Hooked Copter Copter Fight

Cliffhanger End Credits

About the author

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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