Film scores

Soundtrack review: 13 hours: The secret soldiers of Benghazi (Lorne Balfe – 2016)

hdr-13Hours_1-Sht_Teaser-2

Michael Bay and Lorne Balfe… two names that are in the hall of fame for me in their respective categories and I will always prioritize whatever they do. The surprise is that this time Bay is directing a biographical action war thriller “13 hours: The secret soldiers of Benghazi”, based on the story of the six members of a security team who fought to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, after a terrorist attack on September 11, 2012. An American Ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos. Lorne had a marvelous 2015 and I can’t wait to hear how he starts the 2016.

He starts the year mournful and respectful. I can almost see the flags at half mass and people with their heads bowed. “Hero”, the opening theme, is not overly dramatic or pathetic. The heads are bowed naturally not because the composer instructs us to. Lorne subdues the music and helps it navigate grief. I hope the movie doesn’t have a bad ending though.

The electric pulses I was expecting from a story like this welcome us to Benghazi. This sound has been done before but that’s because it works. For a story like this I need claustrophobic and suffocating pulses and I need a pace that makes me think of a heart beating at 170 bpm. This cue grows , builds up, gets more complex with the passing of seconds and I feel as if I was part of the story. My heart is also racing and I want to get away.

Lorne sure knows how to create an atmosphere. I gasp for air when I hear “Burn them out”. The raw and edgy sound, the menacing percussion and the construction of this cue make me think of a grenade exploding in a confined space. The score is not all about intensity and threat. Lorne reminds me how good he is at writing emotional cues. “Calling home” makes me think of the best moments from his “Terminator Genisys” score.

The pace of the action moments reminds me of Henry Jackman’s “Captain Phillips”. Those moments are relentless and they just will not let go. I love a score that makes me feel this way. “13 hours: The secret soldiers of Benghazi” is an adrenaline shot which raises my pulse and makes me want to jump out of my chair and just run for cover. The music makes me care and I need to catch my breath after some of the cues. I don’t need more than this to count a composition among my favorites. From “Forgotten” downwards the music just goes for the heart and hits its mark.

Lorne Balfe is in a state of grace and I don’t want this wonderful period of his to end. Do not miss this one. I can’t wait to hear it in context as well.

Cue rating: 97 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 44 / 53

Album excellence: 84%

Highlights:

Hero

Welcome To Benghazi

Downtime’s The Worst

Burn Them Out

Calling Home

Engage Direct

The Last Resort

Forgotten

All The Hells

Going Home

13 Hours

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).

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment