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Soundtrack review: The commuter (Roque Banos – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The commuter (Roque Banos – 2018)



“The Commuter is a 2018 action thriller film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle. The film stars Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern, and Sam Neill. Michael McCauley (Liam Neeson) is an insurance salesman who is on his daily commute home. A mysterious stranger contacts him and offers him $100,000 if he identifies a hidden passenger on his train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes he is caught in the middle of a deadly criminal conspiracy, and that his life and the lives of his fellow passengers are at risk. Liam Neeson in action movies has been one of my favourite distractions for the past decade so I am in no matter the setting or the story. Roque Banos wrote the score and it will be interesting to hear his music on an action thriller as he usually scores horror or more epic movies.

One distinctive trait for me of a Roque Banos score, be it scary or romantic was that he always managed to insert gorgeous, sensitive piano themes int he fabric of his score; this is also something I’ve noticed about Spanish and South American composers who love to go deep with the lively solo piano and play with the emotions it creates; these past few yeas some of my favourite complex piano themes have come from people like Banos, Velazquez or Victor Reyes. The opening cue “A commuter’s trip” is a rolling piano melody full of fervour and twists that instantly gets me connected with this score; the orchestral elegance ads an extra layer to the rugged and edgy nature of the story.

The mood instantly changes for the dark with the next cue “Back home down”; this is where Roque Banos’ experience writing textural horror scores comes in handy as the suspense is built, once again, with the help of the dripping piano this time helped by a quiet and haunting string motif. I like it that right from the start the score feels alive, as it should be for a thriller; the constant presence of the piano matches the rolling of the train wheel and a lot of things could be happening on screen but the piano is the one constant in the sound.

As the plot progresses the tension in the music rises and the sound decreases in volume; once again I notice how maybe the music is too clean or too elegant for an action thriller but then again, so is Liam Neeson. I’ve been complaining for years about the generic electronic sound thrillers usually get so I am happy to find a score that uses orchestral instruments mostly. Still without the support of the images I have a hard time connecting with this score. I like the sound but after that superb piano start the tension is too cold and I don’t get the feeling of a story from the score; the composer creates an atmosphere that fits perfectly with my expectations for a movie like this but as a standalone listening experience it sometimes lacks the grip.

This score is also quite long, 71 minutes, with long dense cues and for this amount of time on its own, without the support of the image, it needs to do more then just set the atmosphere. I remember I had the same problem for a similar movie and score, Harry Gregson Williams “The equalizer” which people liked a lot while I felt I needed more. I appreciated that score much more after I saw the movie so maybe it will be the case here as well. For me, a well made suite like “I won’t let them hurt you” plus the opening and closing themes would have worked best.

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 72

Album excellence: 20%

A Commuter’s Trip
A Beautiful Family
The End Of The Line

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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