Soundtrack review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Lorne Balfe – 2018)
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is a 2018 American spy film written, produced and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. It is the sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series, and the second film to be directed by McQuarrie after Rogue Nation (2015), making him the first person to direct more than one film in the franchise. The cast includes Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan and Alec Baldwin, all of whom reprise their roles from previous films, while Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett and Vanessa Kirby join the franchise. When an IMF mission ends badly and Solomon Lane escapes custody, the world is faced with dire consequences. As Ethan Hunt takes it upon himself to fulfill his original briefing, the CIA begins to question his loyalty and his motives. Hunt finds himself in a race against time, hunted by assassins and former allies while trying to prevent a global catastrophe.
I have been a fan of this franchise ever since the start and Tom Cruise’s “Ethan Hunt” is right up there in the gallery of my favourite movie characters. The trailers for this sixth film simply blew my mind and I easily count them among the most exciting ever. Critics so far have also mentioned this movie as the best in the franchise (which is in itself fantastic since the fifth one already seemed hard to beat) and the best action movie since “Mad Max: Fury Road” which gives me an equally sweet tingling in my stomach. This is also a nice way to tie the score since Tom Holkenborg’s effort for the aforementioned movie ranks for me among the best of the 2000s and now for “Fallout” Lorne Balfe, a brother in arms for Tom, was brought in to pump up the adrenaline with as similarly monster composition that clocks in at almost 100 minutes.
The music of the movie franchise so far is like a collection of my favourite composers, each of them got at least a try: Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino and now Lorne Balfe and when they brought in a composer who wasn’t at the top of my list, they made sure he got there when Joe Kraemer absolutely delivered on “Rogue nation”, a robust, smart and complex spy movie score. To most people’s surprise and disappointment he wasn’t asked back for this sequel but I was also happy with the choice of Lorne especially given the insane action levels “Fallout” brings. As many other huge franchises these days, “Mission: Impossible” also lacks a consistent sound or musical story, and the one things that tie the movies together is each composer’s own personal take on the famous, immortal, legendary Lalo Schifrin main theme. From there on, Zimmer went for a Spanish guitar based sound, Giacchino brought his rollercoaster knot in the stomach style while Kraemer went for a more subtle, almost retro dark spy sound, more laid back. It’s time now for Lorne Balfe to bring his own signature sound to the party.
The score opens boldly with the explosive “A storm is coming” (can’t help but think of “The dark knight rises”) which is just the pre credits nugget before the mission starts. I was hoping I would get a clear Balfe version of “Light the fuse” since he proved he can rework the best of them with the impressive his take on the Brad Fiedel “Terminator” theme was. “Fallout” gives me what I need and it’s as bombastic as it should be. Guaranteed goosebumps. There is also a sort of hybrid version hidden in “Good evening, Mr Hunt”, deconstructed between the sneaky piano and the stabbing strings. With all this talk of action and testosterone the first section of “Fallout” is tempered, quiet, suspenseful, more reminiscent of Joe Kraemer’s take on the franchise. Lorne is building a solid foundation for his score before taking off in a blaze of glory. I am listening to “Good evening Mr Hunt” and I remember that it’s exactly 10 years since the score for “The dark knight” was released. I missed that particular, dense, unique atmosphere and I seem to be getting it here.
“Stairs of rooftops” finally answers the riddle Lorne kept posting on his social media about bringing out the bongos. Yes, there be bongos in this one and it’s just one of the innovative sounds which make this cue the first specialty on the menu in “Fallout”. This is what I came here for, this is one of those cues that will slap the haters with a dripping piano over their heads. This cue bridges the past, the John Barry “James Bond” scores, to the less melodic, more testosterone filled present and I am loving it. It just builds up with the epic choirs as well and easily makes it to my “best cues of 2018 so far” list.
The score develops in a much darker tone than I was expecting. Lorne Balfe experiments in this one, he has time to do it too and there are pieces like “No hard feelings” that need multiple listens to reveal themselves, layer by layer. From African bongos to suffocating electronics and percussion, everything works in this cue as well. This score is a fascinating listen for me because it’s fresh, it’s new and yet every now and then it makes me think of favourite scores from the past, like “The dark knight”, like “Tron: legacy”, even Jeff Beal’s “House of cards” with the sneaky piano that pops up every now and then and I feel the need to turn up the volume more with each passing cue. The music builds up until it explodes and then we get to listen to the scattered pieces fighting to get back together again.
I like most of the action moments, I like quieter, brooding pieces like “We are never free” and “Kashmir” as well; they give me the emotional release I need to balance the suffocating action. The advantage with a score as long as this one is that the composer has the chance to explore his ideas, create a complex canvas and give his score multiple dimensions. The classic “Mission: Impossible” theme is also used and integrated just the way I like it and at the end of the day, this sounds and feels like a “Mission: Impossible” score for me. It is, of course, Lorne Balfe’s take on the franchise and on everything “M:i” means, but its identity and place in the franchise is clear so I got everything I needed from it.
Even if the movie was half as spectacular and draining as the critics said, the music would surely fill up the rest. I did change a couple of T-shirts during the 95 minutes run of this one as it was on its own as suspenseful as a captivating movie. With a monstrous score like this, I can’t wait to go to the cinema and experience the entire context of this jaw dropping movie that got the score it needed to be even more spectacular. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, if you want epic disaster or action music, Lorne Balfe is one of your safest bets around.
By the way, if you are missing Michael Giacchino’s trademark cue title puns, Lorne does something different but just as fun here and we get sister cues like “Faith whispers to the warrior” with “And the warrior whispers back” or “Your mission” with “Should you choose to accept…”
Cue rating: 87 / 100
A Storm Is Coming
Good Evening, Mr. Hunt
Stairs and Rooftops
No Hard Feelings
I Am the Storm
Escape Through Paris
We Are Never Free
The Last Resort