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Soundtrack review: All the way (James Newton Howard – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: All the way (James Newton Howard – 2016)


“All the Way” is a 2016 American television drama film directed by Jay Roach and written by Robert Schenkkan, based on Schenkkan’s play of the same name. It stars Bryan Cranston, Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo, and Frank Langella. Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President of the United States after the John F. Kennedy assassination. Upon his arrival in the White House, he must work on the passage of the Civil Rights Act, pressured by Martin Luther King Jr. to pass the bill without removing its most significant content in order to appease Southern Democrats, who may abandon the Democratic Party if the bill passes. James Newton Howard wrote the score.

I like the opening because the shadow of the shooting brings a little “The sixth sense” nostalgia. I recognize in this cue one of the motifs from the revelation scene in that movie. It’s a military variation of that motif with the brass section to make me think of flags being raised. It’s a slow start but I expected as much from this story. James Newton Howard is a master of nuances and especially with a story like this he needs a soft and serious brush to paint with. This is the kind of movie where all the focus should be on what’s happening on screen, on the actor, on the script while the music serves as a quiet and empathic companion.

I am listening to “House and senate” and recognize my second favorite composer who injects the seriousness in the beginning of the cue with an emotional buildup in the second half that make me think of people coming together for a common cause not because they have to but because they believe. There’s something celebratory in almost every cue as James Newton Howard never lets us forget the setting of the movie. The small military or political motifs mark the boundaries of this composition and give the music little time to maneuver.

There aren’t a lot of standout moments in “All the way”. Very few times the music goes deeper with the emotions or gets lively. One such moment is the decision in “I’m coming for you”. The bulk of the score though is dark and serious; there isn’t a trace of smile or wink in the music. A composer like James Newton Howard subtly varies the depth of the music when the situation asks for but just barely.

“All the way” is a mostly functional score with sparks of JNH brilliantness. This is what the subject of the movie asked for and needed. The composer was restricted by the story and I am satisfied with the result in these conditions.

Cue rating: 81 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 11 / 54

Album excellence: 19%


After The Shooting

House And Senate

Church Basement

All The Way



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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