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Deepwater Horizon
  • Composed by Steve Jablonsky
  • Warner Bros. / 2016 / 62m

I was in Florida at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and I remember the terrible situation that ensued, with devastation for so many people and a dire outcome for the natural world.  Peter Berg’s new action film focuses on the oil platform itself, the people on it at the time and their attempts to stay alive, and the effect on their families.  Continuing their collaboration from Battleship and Lone Survivor is composer Steve Jablonsky, whose music for turtles earlier in the year was surprisingly enjoyable.  This score is less surprising, particularly to anyone who’s heard music from previous films by this director (Hancock aside).  It opens with a chilled-out, uneventful piece “Taming the Dinosaurs” before “The Rig” introduces a sonar-like keyboard sound carrying little textures over ambient synths and percussion.  Sadly, that’s almost as good as it gets (the guitar-based finale, “Home”, is actually very pleasant).

The noise begins in the next cue, “The Monster”.  A synthetic HORN OF DOOM appears in these things as surely as night follows day, and there it is in all its lack of glory, the inane puerility surely the worst of modern film music’s dumbing down.  What follows is textural, with frequent screeches, buzzes and whirrs, one effect that literally sounds like someone scraping their nails on a blackboard.  That sonar sound is the main recurring idea (it wears rather thin).  It’s bleak, murky, an incessant harbinger of bad things which may be exactly what Berg wanted and what the film warrants but it certainly doesn’t make for a good album.  Indeed, it’s horribly unpleasant for the majority of its hour-long running time.  You might think there’s nothing unusual about horribly unpleasant music in a film about an event as horribly unpleasant as the one depicted here, but I suspect there are ways of doing it in a more musically fulfilling may.  (Unfortunately not in 2016 when there’s Hollywood money behind it.)  Four years ago I wrote about Battleship that maybe there was “more musical value in a recording of a bowl of Rice Krispies”; I’m sad to say that there’s no doubt at all this time round.

Rating: No stars | |

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  1. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 3 October, 2016 at 23:03

    I think the bookending tracks are pleasant enough to save this one from the dreaded no stars rating, but yeah. Yikes. Peter Berg seems to be on a diametrically opposed wavelength to me when it comes to film music (Hancock must be some sort of bizarre accident, in retrospect).

  2. Aidabaida (Reply) on Tuesday 4 October, 2016 at 02:14

    Doesn’t a “No Stars” review mean “No redeeming features”?

  3. James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 4 October, 2016 at 07:59

    It does… there’s only the solitary final score track (and to be fair the song after it) which is in any way redeeming, but not enough for me…

  4. Aidabaida (Reply) on Tuesday 4 October, 2016 at 17:02

    Maybe then it just needs a 1/2 star. You’ve never given out one of those, oddly.

  5. Momo (Reply) on Friday 7 October, 2016 at 16:11

    Whether it was worth half a star or none at all, it’s probably still not worth listening to 😛

  6. Aidabaida (Reply) on Friday 7 October, 2016 at 21:06

    Indeed. I’ll be skipping this one based on the reviews…and Jablonsky’s unfortunate track record. How I long for another “Steamboy”. 🙁

  7. Jockolantern (Reply) on Sunday 9 October, 2016 at 15:52

    Given everything Jablonsky has written since Steamboy, I am more and more convinced that the aforementioned score was ghostwritten. It’s a wonderful action score which Jablonsky has not even come within arm’s reach of producing in the twelve years since. To the composer’s defense, a score like Deepwater Horizon is a clear example of the director/producers valuing score as sound design rather than score as narrative