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Soundtrack review: Thank you for your service (Thomas Newman – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Thank you for your service (Thomas Newman – 2017)

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“Thank You for Your Service” follows a group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq who struggle to integrate back into family and civilian life, while living with the memory of a war that threatens to destroy them long after they’ve left the battlefield. Starring an ensemble cast led by Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Beulah Koale, Scott Haze, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Brad Beyer, Omar J. Dorsey and Jayson Warner Smith, the drama is based on the bestselling book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author David Finkel. Jason Hall, who wrote the screenplay of American Sniper, makes his directorial debut with Thank You for Your Service and also serves as its screenwriter. The score was written by Thomas Newman. This reminds me of the plot for “Brothers” which was a good score by Newman.

I rarely expect a Thomas Newman score to start with a dark and noisy texture that lacks any of the usual light and melody of his scores. “Kansas River”, the opening cue, sets a dark tone for this score and considering the composer it has the desired impact. “Jax”, the second cue, returns to the Newman sound we’ve all known and loved for 30 years, the light guitar side of it. It’s a nice little theme written in a sound that for me very rarely fails; I don’t think there’s another composer today who can write music that is so meaningful and dances right at the edge between light and heavy. In order to express musically the angst and turmoil of the main characters, Thomas Newman chose to make his cues dense ambient with the instruments all crowding the low tonalities and giving the impression of inner noise. “11 months 19 days” is about as dark as I’ve heard this composer write. It’s quite a change from the last score I heard from him, the effervescently happy “Victoria & Abdul”. “April 28” gets even more uncomfortable and I find myself fascinated with this score even if it’s far from putting me in a good mood. This cue almost scares me with how fractured and grounded glass like it is and Newman still finds a way to end it with one of his trademark melodic motifs.

The Thomas Newman ambience is a special and almost unique sound in film music; and yet he still finds ways, even after 30 years, to expand it, deepen it and make it meaningful. “Thank you for your service” is dark, make no mistake about it; with the exception of a few cues and motifs from a few others the undertone is menacing, uncomfortable, maddening at times with prolonged sounds and almost suffocating tension. Even I was surprised by how dense “I can still taste his blood” sounded and felt and how even if it was painful I wanted to listen to it again.

“Thank you for your service” is one of the colder and more serious scores Thomas Newman has written recently; the story inspired him to strip a lot of the melodic light from his usual sound, strip his compositions to a cold and abrasive skeleton. Even in doing so he still managed to create a composition that is as meaningful as it is affecting.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 7 / 35

Album excellence: 20%

Highlights:
April 28
Good Soldier
I Can Still Taste His Blood
Take What Comes

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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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