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Soundtrack review: Logan (Marco Beltrami – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Logan (Marco Beltrami – 2017)

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“Logan” is a 2017 American superhero drama film featuring the Marvel Comics character Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. The film, distributed by 20th Century Fox, is the tenth installment in the X-Men film series, and the third film focused on Wolverine, following X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013). It was directed by James Mangold, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Frank and Michael Green, from a story by Mangold, and also stars Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant and Dafne Keen. The film follows a past-his-prime Logan embarking on a road trip across America for one final mission.

The “X-Men” world is my favorite superhero universe; something about the characters, their problems and special skills and their constant struggle made me connect best to their stories. This movie was no different and this particular take on an old and bruised and worn out Logan, a character that’s always so strong and impenetrable made for one of the most rewarding cinematic experiences of recent years. Marco Beltrami, the film music chameleon rose up to the task and in the context of the movie the score was the perfect companion for the characters’ journeys. As the movie was unfolding and the music was filling some of the voids I was recognizing the familiar western soundscape that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have been creating for the past decade or so. Even from the main titles the piano sends me to that dusty land; the percussion lets me know that it’s a different composer but he roams the same desert.

Most of the score is minimalistic and subdued, just the way I like it. I appreciate the subtle ways in which Marco Beltrami evokes uncertainty, fatigue or smoldering rage in his cues. I like the reflective nature of the music and the comfort I find in it.  I hear echoes of his “World War Z” score in “The grim reavers” as a sense of impending and electric doom takes me over like a virus. “Old man Logan” is the theme I was most looking forward in this score; I wanted to listen to it, close my eyes and imagine Wolverine’s permanent scowl and the expression of constant discomfort on his face. The piano and strings, both played in long and poignant sequences are like blades constantly cutting the skin, or like a pain that you know is buried there inside you even if you don’t feel it all the time.

I am surprised that the few percussion motifs scattered throughout the score feel like they are breaking an imaginary flow; for me those moments romance the story unnecessarily as if to sweeten the blows when the movie is all about taking them head on and feeling every single sting of pain. Fortunately the rest of the score drowns these moments. The action explodes precisely in sounds of tortured strings.

Marco Beltrami achieved the remarkable feat of making his music feel bruised and scared just like the characters. The score for “Logan” is not shiny and clean, not polished and optimistic; it’s dirty and broken  and almost feral at times and I can also here the piano motifs with which he tries to bandage the wounds. The movie is all about personal and intimate journeys and the music mimics just that without getting elaborate or spectacular. I almost always get the impression that I am locked inside a claustrophobic motel room wondering if I should go on or not.

“Logan” didn’t need a score to be remembered on its own and this character didn’t need a sendoff with a hummable theme; it needed something as honest and affecting as the on screen story and Marco Beltrami delivered it. My only small complaint would be the lack of Professor X and his degradation and pain in the music. I’m not sure how something specific would have sounded but I felt his absence from the score.  All in all the composer wrote a modern western score with subdued emotion and believable pain that’s just as meaningful as the movie.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 38 / 57

Album excellence: 67%

Highlights:

Laura

Old Man Logan

X-24
El Limo-nator
Gabriella’s Video
To the Cemetery
Goodnight Moon
Feral Tween
Driving to Mexico
You Can’t Break the Mould
Up to Eden
Beyond the Hills
Logan vs. X-24
Don’t Be What They Made You
Eternum – Laura’s Theme
Logan’s Limo

 

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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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