Film scores

Soundtrack review: Jack Reacher – Never go back (Henry Jackman – 2016)

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is a 2016 American action thriller film directed by Edward Zwick and written with Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz. A sequel to 2012 film Jack Reacher, the film stars Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Patrick Heusinger, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh and Holt McCallany. Set four years after the events of the first film, Jack Reacher is returning to the headquarters of his old military unit. He comes to meet Major Susan Turner who has been working with him on solving cases across the country. Upon his arrival, he is informed that Turner is accused of espionage. Ed Zwick…Tom Cruise…I’m thinking “The last samurai”… No Hans Zimmer though, but his pal Henry Jackman who took over composing duties from Joe Kraemer who scores the first film. I enjoyed the action packed movie that showed Tom Cruise in top form and I think I will enjoy this second one as well.

Henry Jackman has had a busy year in 2016 but without any memorable themes yet. As I go into this score I am wondering why Joe Kraemer who did a fantastic job on “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” didn’t score this one and as the music starts I get flashbacks of John Powell’s scores for the Bourne franchise, scores I am not very fond of. “Checking in” opens this score kind of slow and generic. I see action I’m thinking percussion and I know from “Captain Phillips” that Jackman can do suffocating percussion. This score though stays in the suspense / thriller zone for the first few cues, a zone that doesn’t provide much excitement. Jackman does experiment with some Oriental strings throughout this score.

The more I listen to this score the more I get the feeling of a supporting composition; the music doesn’t stand out and it’s mostly quiet and subtle with the usual cues you would expect to hear in a thriller. But Jack Reacher, just like the aforementioned Bourne, is not about surveillance and sneaking around and hiding; it’s full blown fast action, chases, explosions, jumps and I just don’t hear that in the music. I need adrenaline in a score like this, I need to feel it and in here there’s just a bit too much suspense for my taste. There are moments in cues like “Jaibreak” when the music tries to break free but I feel the composer isn’t letting it. Moments like these frustrate me instead of pleasing me because I know how this score could have sounded. I find solace in the emotion of “Samantha” and he ambient sound of “A junkie’s lament” but they are isolated cues and I didn’t expect the slower ones to be my favorites.

If you enjoyed the Bourne scores by John Powell you will like this one as well. For me the standalone listening experience was a bit frustrating and I’m sure it will be better in context.

Cue rating: 69 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 2 / 45

Album excellence: 4%






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).


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