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Soundtrack review: Aftermath (Mark Todd – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Aftermath (Mark Todd – 2017)


Two strangers’ lives become inextricably bound together after a devastating plane crash. Inspired by actual events, AFTERMATH tells a story of guilt and revenge after an air traffic controller’s (Scoot McNairy) error causes the death of a construction foreman’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) wife and daughter. I loved the movie and it’s one of Arnold’s better true acting performances. The big man also managed to play pain and restrained emotions when he needed to, alongside the anger. I actually watched the movie twice to get more of its subtleties. The score was written by Mark Todd and I appreciated how quietly efficient it was in context. I wanted to review this score because I liked the movie so much and because there were some moments when the music really stood out.

The main titles theme, a playful piano melody that sounds almost like a tango, was one of the pieces I noticed while watching the film. I noticed it also because it was the happiest music piece before angst and pain took over. “Alone” is a minimalistic piece full of ambient echoes that expresses very well the idea of loneliness when everything around starts to feel and appear bigger and colder than it really is; a subtle string motif mirrors pain and the composer manages to say a lot with very little.

Ambient is the key word for the cue that depicts what happens in the control tower. Once again the orchestral motifs are very subtle and heard as if from far away while the main sound is fractured and crumbled in quiet electronic pieces; I like the end result of combining the two. The cue is uncomfortable and painful to listen to.

Since the story is all about two main characters that each deal with the pain and consequences of that incident the music is minimalistic and very quiet. I love the ambient echo that’s present throughout this composition, the one that’s very prominent in a cue like “Step by step”; the loneliness of each character, one by tragedy and the other by choice is expressed musically with various degrees of strings.

For me the most heartbreaking scene from “Aftermath” was when Arnold’s character visits the crash site and finds the string of pearls he had given his daughter. The cue is ghastly and I love how Mark Todd expresses restrained and growing anger through string motifs and pain and remembrance though sparse piano keys. The main two note piano theme comes back in “Graveyard” and makes the cue less dark. The loneliness played by that piano motif is painful to hear and the way the piano sounds make me think of silent tears falling.

The strength of “Aftermath” lies in the poignancy of each separate cue; Mark Todd shuts the blinds and only lets some light in when that simple piano motif recurs. “Aftermath” is dark and painful, quiet and minimalistic. There’s a sensation of something left unfinished throughout the score and I am as satisfied with the music as I was with the movie.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 31 / 66

Album excellence: 47%

Main Titles
Control Tower
Step by Step
Consequences II
New Life
End credits

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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