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Soundtrack review: Skyscraper (Steve Jablonsky – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Skyscraper (Steve Jablonsky – 2018)

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“Skyscraper” is a 2018 American action film written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. It stars Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, and Hannah Quinlivan. Former FBI agent and amputee Will Sawyer lives in the tallest and “safest” skyscraper in Hong Kong with his family. The skyscraper itself, known as “The Pearl” houses several floors that function as their own society and despite the risks highlighted by Sawyer, who is the building’s head of security, his bosses insist that it is impenetrable. True to Sawyer’s belief, the building comes under attack by terrorists, forcing Sawyer to take action. Matters are complicated further when he finds himself framed for the attack, and his family trapped above the resulting fire line. Steve Jablonsky wrote the score and for a project like this, I’m fine with either him or Lorne Balfe.

The previous two Dwayne Johnson blockbusters have been scored by Andrew Lockington and this time he went for the man behind the legendary “Transformers” sound, Steve Jablonsky. The movie has a Michael Bay feel to it so this fits. Steve opens with a massive 7 minutes long theme “Hostage pt 1”, a dense and tense electronic piece that actually makes me realise that I can now recognise a Jablonsky special as he has developed his own electric, pulsating sound during all these years. There’s also hidden in there the sprout of a heroic motif, the kind that he can write so well. I think this is what usually defines his music: few composers can write such an honest, heroic, American sounding score, with nothing but national pride, fit for the people who love to salute the flag and honour the soldiers. I am neither, but for me this sound serves a different purpose as I love motivating, inspirational music; it makes me feel better, it makes me want to do things and it also works very well on my running playlists.

I listen to the light heroic musings in “Will & Sarah” and “Welcome to heaven” and I just can’t wait for the composer to develop and build up on this sound. This is a sound that makes me feel comfortable, it’s optimistic, positive, pleasant and, well, beautiful. This is just a passage from the score as the action starts and the tone gets darker and more alert. There is something different in this score compared to other Jablonsky compositions as he traded epic loudness for depth; his music is more tense, more levelled. He even experiments with some tortured strings in “The crane”, the cue that plays over that infamous scene from the trailer, with the mighty jump. The cue is 7 minutes long and grows on me as it builds up in sound.

“Skyscraper” is quite linear as the middle section cues all sound similar. It’s the kind of music that accompanies the over the top on screen explosive shenanigans giving them just a slight adrenaline bump. For me this score is exactly what a movie like this needed; nothing overly dramatic, nothing thematic, but with enough testosterone to work even as a standalone listening experience. The music is dark, but then again, almost the entire movie takes place in the dark. Outside of the context of the movie my favourite pieces where the light heroic ones; nobody writes them right now better than Steve Jablonsky and he should keep them coming.

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Highlights:
Will & Sarah
Georgia & Henry
Lucky Man
The Pearl

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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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