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Soundtrack review: Divergent (Tom Holkenborg / Junkie XL – 2014)

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Soundtrack review: Divergent (Tom Holkenborg / Junkie XL – 2014)


„The divergent series” is another young adult trilogy set in a dystopian future. It features a post-apocalyptic version of Chicago which defines its citizens by their social and personality related affiliation with five factions. „Divergent” is the movie based on the first book, where the main character Beatrice is warned that she is Divergent and will therefore never fit into one of the factions. On top of that a sinister plot is brewing in the society. Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) wrote the score, and Hans Zimmer produced it. The two of them worked together on “Man of steel” among others. This is a massive score (90 minutes) with a huge potential for great music.

The theme for “Tris”, the main character is a very nice blend of sounds and motifs. Part guitar anthem (in the style of Brian Tyler’s “Battle LA”), part choral inspiration (Ellie Gouldin’s voice is remarkable) part percussion buildup and with a melodic line that makes me think of a summer sea, this 8 minute opening puts me in a very good mood. Nothing heavy, nothing too dramatic it matches the weight of the story. It’s clear that the theme is for a girl because it’s beautiful and sensitive. Besides, you can’t go wrong with a voice like that and she adds an extra something to a few more tracks which wouldn’t have worked as well without her involvement. My favorite is “Sacrifice”, the most elegiac and emotional cue from “Divergent”.

I am surprised by how upbeat and clubby a cue like “Choosing Danutless” sounds. This doesn’t feel like film music or particularly connected to the story at hand. It just sounds like a club anthem. I expect to see people raising their hands and joining in at the chorus instead of fighting for their lives. Same with ”Capture the flag”. The music is enjoyable and optimistic and it makes me smile. It charms me but a post apocalyptic dystopian future and capturing a flag is the farthest thing from my mind. Still this is about the music so I can only give 5 stars to a piece like this.

On the other hand, when I hear “The test” or “This isn’t real” I know where I am. The sound effects growl and me and crawl at me and make me want to get out of there. They are efficient as they are uncomfortable. I hear the “Man of steel” influence in cues like “The test” or “Fear”. They are pure and aggressive percussion with nothing else on the side. I prefer the more melodic and atmospheric pieces like “I am divergent” or “A friend”. I can connect better with them, the music makes me dream and fantasize. They are part of an almost uninterrupted hypnotic and intense section of the score (it continues with “Conspiracy”, “Watertank” and “Faction before blood”) that I get lost in, in a good way. “Faction before blood” is the kind of emotional and melodic web I like to wrap myself in and never let go. This cue alone is worth the price of the score.

There’s a 14 minute long cue that deserves a special mention. “You’re not gonna like this” is a journey in itself, a rollercoaster of sound full of surprises. It’s riling and intense and loud and a joy to hear. If you don’t have time to hear the entire score, just try this one out and “Faction before blood” or “Sacrifice” for the emotional fix. If you enjoy them then this score is for you. They represent best Junkie XL’s composition.

Me, I really liked the sound of “Divergent”. I didn’t even feel that it was 90 minutes long; they went by in a blink. The music wasn’t difficult to understand and it wasn’t intrusive. Every cue had something to offer and the entire score was a canvas I’m sure I enjoyed way more than I would have enjoyed the movie. Looking forward to the next Tom Holkenborg solo works.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 47 / 90

Album excellence: 64%


Tris (feat. Ellie Goulding)

Capture The Flag (feat. Ellie Goulding)

I Am Divergent

A Friend



Faction Before Blood

Final Test

The March

You’re Not Gonna Like This

Everywhere And Nowhere


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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