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Edge of Tomorrow
  • Composed by Christophe Beck
  • WaterTower Music / 2014 / 46m

Edge of Tomorrow is a science fiction movie set in the near future – where Earth is under attack by aliens – and sees Tom Cruise play a soldier sent on a suicide mission and dying – only to find himself waking up again at the start of the same day, with another chance to take part in the mission – over and over again.  Director Doug Liman has made some decent films before – it was The Bourne Identity that made his name but before that I particularly enjoyed Go – but found himself having to pick a new composer after the man who scored his previous four movies, John Powell, wasn’t available.

At first he picked Ramin Djawadi who was announced as the composer, in a move that set all of film music fandom’s pulses racing with excitement.  For whatever reason, that didn’t work out and Christophe Beck came on board.  Beck is currently riding the crest of a wave – and presumably counting a mountain of cash – after the phenomenal success of Frozen; while comedy has dominated his career to date, he has worked on more action-orientated pictures occasionally, such as RED and RIPD, but of course they also have comedy elements at heart which gave him the hook to hang his scores off.  Without that hook this time, seeing what he came up with seemed an interesting prospect.

Christophe Beck

Christophe Beck

Given John Powell’s very distinctive style – which shone through in his scores for Liman, particularly of course the game-changing The Bourne Identity – the least I hoped for was the chance to hear a composer not used to working on this type of film be given the chance to stamp his mark on it, to craft something distinctive and perhaps bring a fresh perspective.  I genuinely didn’t expect to hear a personality-free temp-track rehash without a single distinguishing feature of its own.  Well, guess what…

If I suggest to you that you try to imagine Man of Steel without the good parts, you may scratch your head as you try to recall any good parts.  But, seriously, try to imagine Man of Steel without the good parts – if it just had the relentless gloop of drumming and miserable action music, it didn’t have that cool bit at the end – sorry to put you through it, but this is a point worth making unnecessarily laboriously.  OK, you’ve imagined it.  Did I mention the HORN OF DOOM yet?  No?  Well…  Imagine that too.  It’s everybody’s favourite film music device, after all.

The album opens with the main title cue, “Angel of Verdun”, and after a bit of electronic disturbance and, within the opening bars of the score, the HORN OF DOOM, comes the score’s best feature, a subtly noble and heroic main theme that is fairly simple and not particularly memorable, but at least it’s something; the action theme that emerges over it also goes on to play a part in the score to follow and again isn’t bad but suffers from being so anonymous.  “No Courage Without Fear” then sets the pattern for virtually everything to follow, little endlessly repeating figures dodging around the HORN OF DOOM in a relentless parade of misery.  It’s hard to pick out anything that sets it apart from the crowd of Zimmer soundalikes that have plagued film music for a few years now – there’s a slightly more “industrial” sound at times from the electronics, perhaps Beck trying to convey the story’s inherent repetition by putting together a soundscape like a miserable factory, but it’s singularly unappealing from a listening point of view.  When the onslaught of drums and unpleasant electronic noises come together fully for the first time in “Mimics and Alphas”, it’s passed the point of no return for me.

If you manage to make it half an hour into the album then you come to an action cue that finally seems to have a bit of life in it, “Uncharted Territory” (unfortunately it only lasts for 1’40”) – but from that point things seem to be elevated somewhat, a raw energy seeming to appear from nowhere and leave the album with at least some redeeming features (a couple more brief action tracks also being highlights in this part of the album, the muted celebration of “Welcome to London Major” impressively handled).

I know that the composer’s job was to write something for the movie and not something for an album and perhaps the music will be a revelation when paired with the film, but it holds no attraction as an album and I can’t believe Christophe Beck wrote something like this for his first major action thriller.  I almost feel sorry for him because surely it can’t have been his choice to do this, but given the latitude this director gave his previous composer I’d be surprised if he were truly the constraining factor this time round.  Unlike certain composers who write stuff like this, it’s obvious from his past work that this composer is highly talented, which possibly makes it even more disappointing to get the poor Zimmer imitation we’ve got here.

In other words, it’s clearly not Captain America: Winter Soldier bad, in its better moments you can certainly hear the potential there for something far greater; it’s just that even in those better moments it’s still pretty anonymous, sounding like another one rolling off the production line, and in other moments its downright unpleasant.  Perhaps I only thought of this because Tom Cruise is in it, but I wonder if it was really considered essential to stick to an established sound, whether the far more entertaining Oblivion / Tron Legacy lineage might have been one that could have worked instead.  Sad to say, Edge of Tomorrow does barely anything for me at all – the more appealing parts are too deeply buried in the murky surroundings to make me want to revisit them; as a result the whole is less than the sum of its parts, a sum which frankly isn’t that vast in the first place despite the signs of life that emerge towards the end.

Rating: * 1/2

See also:
Man of Steel Hans Zimmer | |

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  1. Jens (Reply) on Friday 30 May, 2014 at 14:08

    I watched Beck on a composer roundtable recently. The way he described his challenges composing Edge of Tomorrow – building the score around the interplay of many small action motifs – I was expecting something Goldenthalish. Instead we get an assortment of every modern film scoring cliché in the book. I am immensely disappointed.


  2. Timothy Snyder (Reply) on Friday 6 June, 2014 at 17:04

    Beck made some great themes back in the day for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the most popular of which is probably “Close Your Eyes”. Shame to see he’s fallen into generic action movie tropes.

  3. John Cunha (Reply) on Friday 6 June, 2014 at 18:48

    I’ve read that he started off with heroic themes and played with the idea of repetition a bit before the director suggested a more, errrr, modern approach for the score.

    But then again, it was also temped with Battleship.

  4. Scott Glasgow (Reply) on Saturday 14 June, 2014 at 11:39

    I liked it and I like Christophe Beck. Yes– “mega-horns” again.. for those who do NOT know what I am saying— here it is for you from 8DIO.. ( It is cliche but effective. HORN OF DOOM = cliche of effectiveness in 2014-15.

    I actually liked the score and film.. Except that stupid end.

    Musically– no themes, nothing to really give it identity which for me is a bigger issue. Beck does great work and I know he probably had a bad situation on this one replacing someone else (ie. less time to think)

  5. Jens (Reply) on Monday 16 June, 2014 at 00:43

    I’m disappointed with Edge of Tomorrow precisely because of how much I generally admire Beck and his work. He’s proven capable of delivering brilliance in any genre, and it’s clear he’s not to blame for this paint-by-numbers score. He’s giving the director and producers what they want, and that’s ok! I just don’t much care to listen to it.

  6. Phil (Reply) on Tuesday 21 October, 2014 at 07:56

    Couldn’t have described it better, James. It’s one of those loud action wall papers, that are unidentifiable, unoriginal and mostly uninspired, fighting the almighty sound effects and the way these films are done, musically, today. take score A, replace it with score B, C, D… and you get the same result… pitty.

  7. Jiří Janda (Reply) on Friday 16 November, 2018 at 23:06

    As I can see I might be the only one who loves this piece of work. Listening to it almost every night I feel better and better about it. It is master piece in which many clues are hidden not on surface but deep down at the very bottom. And listening to “Find me when you wake up” sends shivers down my spine. For me, and acknowledging I might be the only one, this is much better than most of the soundtracks I have ever listened to.

  8. Christopher Mennell (Reply) on Thursday 17 January, 2019 at 23:44

    To be honest I don’t think it is a great score by any means, but it does fit the film. The use of the cue “Find Me When You Wake Up” during the action set pieces worked incredibly well.