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Soundtrack review: Deepwater Horizon (Steve Jablonsky – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Deepwater Horizon (Steve Jablonsky – 2016)


“Deepwater Horizon” is a 2016 American biographical disaster film directed by Peter Berg, written by Matthew Sand and Matthew Michael Carnahan, and starring an ensemble cast including Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien and Kate Hudson. It is based on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On April 20, 2010, blowout and explosion on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon irreparably damages and sinks the oil rig, releasing thousands of gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico in the U.S.’ worst ever oil spill. Michael ‘Mike’ Williams, and Caleb Holloway, two of more than 120 crew members on board, help rescue some of their ship mates, while his family back home deals with the fallout of the disaster. The score was written by Steve Jablonsky.

Disaster movies are my favorite genre and Steve Jablonsky is one of my favorite composers; for me he has helped shape a sound I am very attached to. Ever since the first “Transformers” score him, alongside Lorne Balfe and Trevor Morris have been the spearheads of the RCP sound that I never get tired of. I feel instant joy whenever one of his scores start and things are no different here. When I hear “Taming the dinosaurs” with its simple and slightly heroic electronic sound I know I am going to enjoy this one. There’s hope and optimism in the music and this always puts me in a good mood.

Somehow also this sound fits the story of an oil rig disaster; I wouldn’t need a big orchestral score for this because I see metal and wires and machineries and cracks and electronic is the way to go. I like the slight echo I hear in the music as if it resonates of something because this also helps with the overall setting of the story. There’s constant tension in the music and a feeling of uncertainty and danger. You will not find memorable themes in this score because the composition was written to underline the threat and seriousness of the story. The cues are simple and pulsating and give me the impression that they transmit live from either inside the main characters, echoing their agitated or regulated heart beats or from inside the machines that are working there. “Hope is not a tactic” is the kind of cue that will be very polarizing.

This feeling of a loud pulse reminds me of another score for a story set on water, Henry Jackman’s “Captain Phillips”. “Deepwater Horizon” has moments when it is just as suffocating and adrenaline infused because Jablosnky knows what he’s doing and he creates a very uncomfortable and frantic electronic atmosphere. My blood is really pumping when I hear “Negative pressure test” and I imagine running on this cue.

I am sure that this score will have enough critics especially from the fans of traditional, orchestral film music. The music is abrasive and cold and sometimes the sound design elements can be too much. It will not be an easy listen if you don’t like tension and suspense. Bur this really is how a terrifyingly suspenseful score should sound like. For me it serves the idea of this disaster movie very well and it’s the kind of score I can play very loud as it echoes something primeval inside of me. I can listen to it to be cold and focused if I need to.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 27 / 57

Album excellence: 35%


Negative Pressure Test

Well from Hell

Cut the Pipe


Stop the Crane

Burn or jump


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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  1. Chris 8th November 2016

    This is a phenomonal piece of work, the best soundtrack since Howard Shore’s work on The Fellowship of the Ring.


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