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Soundtrack review: Patriots day (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Patriots day (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – 2017)


“Patriots Day” is a 2016 American mystery thriller-drama film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent terrorist manhunt. The film is directed by Peter Berg and written by Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer, based on the book Boston Strong by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. It stars Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders joins the hunt of the suspects. The score was written by my favorite composer pair Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the heart and soul of Nine Inch Nails. I remember vividly the Boston Marathon bombings especially because they happened at the time mark when I usually finish a marathon, about four hours from the start.

A new score by Trent and Atticus is one of my favorite moments of the year; their soundscapes are o close and familiar to me that every chance to listen to them is like coming back home. I’ve known Trent’s way of expressing his emotions through music for 25 years and he never disappointed me or released an album that didn’t have meaning to me. The familiar haziness of the opening cue “Them and us” takes me back to the first time these two musicians swapped punishing and raw industrial aggression for a more quiet and reflective sound, 2008’s “Ghosts” instrumental album. That album represents the birth of their film music sound which has since been developed. I recognize in here all the usual elements that make a Reznor / Ross score work: the poignant piano strokes, the constant gentle buzzing and the question mark at the end.

I am happy that for this movie they took the reflective route; I am happy both because I like this mood best but also because this will quiet down the many critics of their music. I always take it personally when someone dismisses their music as manufactured and cold so when I hear a beautiful and heartwarming cue like the minimalistic “We forget who we are” I imagine this feeling slowly taking over everyone who listens like a comfortable mist of kindness and love. I can never get enough of the way the music seems to dissolve at the end, naturally and pleasantly; I know that every grain of dust it leaves behind is a gem.

Just as the music they write helps me get to know the artists better so the way I perceive it and the way it affects me makes me know myself better. The opening of “The place you are right now” is probably my favorite musical sanctuary; that mood, that slow piano, that quiet ambience is my most comfortable cocoon. The mood changes once the inquiries and investigations start. That reflective piano is no longer alone and a darker fabric covers it as the music gets livelier and more puslating.

I love the almost autistic focus in “Trails”; the way this cue is written makes me feel as if someone is placing me into the shape of a vessel and then throws at me, slowly and without missing, the pieces that will construct that vessel which will hold me. The piano strokes are calculated and exact and I am hypnotized.

Of course, what is comfortable and hypnotizing for me might get uncomfortable for others. This is a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score so if you usually can’t connect with their music you might not enjoy this one as much as I did. It’s closer to “The girl with the dragon tattoo” than to “The social network” and there are colder moments like “Broken glass” and “Nobody cares about me” which might put some people off. But then again the minimalistic, quiet and reflective soundscape that makes up most of “Patriots day” serves the story right and makes for an equally rewarding standalone listen. For me this score was a joy and I will listen to it many times more to explore more of what it has to offer.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 40 / 67

Album excellence: 60%


We forget who we are

The place you are right now


Nobody cares about me


Long shadows on the street


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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