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Soundtrack review: Mission: impossible (Danny Elfman -1996)

Film scores Franchises

Soundtrack review: Mission: impossible (Danny Elfman -1996)


I had barely watched the “Mission: impossible” TV show so my first contact with this world was with the 1996 movie. Tom Cruise and the rest of the guys introduced a very exciting way of doing things and I remember how much I enjoyed this movie in the theater. I loved its pace, the writing and the humor in the dialogues. I couldn’t wait for the next movies to come. What didn’t’ stick back then was the music but it was almost 20 years ago and I wasn’t as much into film music as I am now. Of course the main theme was something else but that wasn’t introduced here and I already knew it from my few brushes with the series. Since this year we are getting the fifth movie it would be a good time to revisit all the scores and see how the music evolved between the three composers who wrote it until now when Joe Kraemer takes over.

Setting aside that main theme which is Lalo Schifrin’s work I am having a really tough time connecting with the music. “Mission: Impossible” is all about excitement, a frantic pace and, most of all, should be about the 60s spy music vibe. I know I should be focusing on the music regardless of the story or the movie but it’s the music itself that lets me have all these thoughts and look for connections. It’s just not gripping enough. Danny Elfman settles in a sort of generic suspense mood which does get interesting at times (like in “Mole hunt”) but it’s largely forgettable.

There is barely any order in the music. Some of the cues don’t make much sense other than setting s sort of murky and tense atmosphere. The music just disappears into the shadows and stays there. There were times when I even forgot I was listening to it. I got lost in some thoughts and the music was just gone. Luckily there are some emotional moments like “Love theme?” or “Betrayal” which show heart and pull be back in. But these are not the highlights I would have expected from a Danny Elfman thriller score. You can clearly hear tough in “Betrayal” how good he is at a dark almost gothic mood.

Then it’s back to generic and there were enough moments when I felt like giving up on this score. It’s a shame because I love the movie and “Mission: Impossible” deserves to have exciting and memorable music. This beginning of the modern era of the franchise was forgettable but this means the only way is up for the franchise.

Cue rating: 71 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 7 / 52

Album excellence: 13%


Mission Impossible theme


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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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