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Soundtrack review: The force (Justin Melland – 2017)

Documentary

Soundtrack review: The force (Justin Melland – 2017)

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“The Force” is a 2017 documentary film directed by Peter Nicks. The documentary describes two years of efforts by the Oakland Police Department to implement reforms against police misconduct and scandals, at a time of growing social unrest, protests demanding increased police accountability, and ongoing federal oversight. Meanwhile, young cops in the Academy learn how to police in a new era of transparency and accountability. And out on the street, the camera gets up close as rookie and veteran officers alike face an increasingly hostile public where dueling narratives surround each use of force. Officers are being watched like never before as they respond to a constant flood of 911 calls, revealing the wide gulf between how cops see themselves and how they are seen by the public. Despite growing public distrust, the OPD is garnering national attention as a model of police reform. But just as the department is on the verge of a breakthrough, the man charged with turning the department around faces the greatest challenge of his career, one that could threaten not only the progress that has been made, but the very authority of the institution itself. Justin Melland wrote the score.

I am expecting electronic music for this score and the “Main titles” confirm it and bring back the sound I enjoyed in Melland’s previous documentary score “Dark web”. I like this tense and rhythmic pace but I like the score even more when the music gets just a little bit more reflective and mysterious in “When will it stop”. Documentaries are not easy to score, maybe even harder than movies because here the story is the most important, the issue at hand and the music must be both supportive and rewarding. Here the focus is on investigations, unrest, violence so the music needs to be cold, decisive, fast paced and Justin Melland’s brand of electronic fits right in; there are cues like “Oakland” that are simply spectacular as far as electronic compositions go and I get a healthy dose of nostalgia from it.

The strength of this score (to avoid doing a predictable pun) lies in the the pulsating pace that puts to shame a lot of the thriller scores that are coming out in recent years; this is the gripping atmosphere that can’t fail with me because it keeps me connected and interested in the music for the duration. There are no easily identifiable themes or emotional melodies in this score. Justin Melland strips his composition to the bare, skeletal minimum and goes with it; he succeeds in creating palpable tension, a knot in my throat and a dense texture that is cold and uncomfortable to touch but rewarding as a standalone listening experience.

Each year there are very few scores that come out and deliver thick tension and suspense from start to finish; I remember how impressed I was a few years ago with Henry Jackman’s “Captain Phillips” score and with Johan Johannsson’s “Sicario”. Both these scores were non stop suffocating tension achieved in different styles, once with insane percussion and the other with minimalistic darkness. “The force” falls somewhere in between, not as loud as “Captain” and not as quiet as “Sicario” but just as gripping. When it was over I was actually surprised because I felt it had just begun; it was still fresh and I still wanted to know what came next. “The force” is a solid electronic thriller score that made me feel more on its own than some recent thrillers did in the cinema.

Cue rating: 90  / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 38

Album excellence: 55%

Highlights:
02 When Will It Stop
04 Oakland
06 Pressure
07 Whispers
11 The Dead Zone
12 Reasons
15 Black Lives Matter
16 Broken

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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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