Latest reviews of new albums:
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
  • Composed by Joe Kraemer
  • La-La Land Records / 2015 / 74m

When it comes to Tom Cruise it seems people are very willing to forgive any negative sentiments they have against the man when it comes to seeing his films, in contrast to a few other stars.  Perhaps it’s because he generally makes very entertaining films that do exactly what you might want them to do.  The Mission: Impossible series shows no sign of flagging, with the fifth installment Rogue Nation proving very popular with critics and audiences.  It possibly helps that there are wider gaps between films than in most franchises, and maybe also that each film has had an individual feel to it thanks to the fact that so far they have all been directed by different people (though the second and third ones were, it has to be said, pretty spectacularly awful).

Rogue Nation‘s director is Christopher McQuarrie, who previously directed Cruise in the excellent Jack Reacher, and the great news is that he has continued his excellent relationship with composer Joe Kraemer.  The even greater news is that Kraemer has been allowed once again to write a score that draws from techniques of decades gone by (1970s thrillers in particular), exclusively acoustic and by far the most Schifrinesque of the five M:I movie scores so far.

Joe Kraemer

Joe Kraemer

It gets underway with the lengthy, brilliant “The A400”, taking us straight into the action.  The first minute or so builds up to a little burst of Schifrin’s theme before the action springs forth, an original action motif mixing not just with Schifrin’s theme but also “The Plot” (which has also been heard in most of the previous films), building up to a big statement of the famous main theme at the end of the cue.  It’s pulsating stuff and what distinguishes it from Michael Giacchino’s (generally impressive) music from the previous two is how comparatively sparse it is – there seems to be a directness present thanks simply to there not being quite so much going on and this allows a certain breathing room.  And it encapsulates Kraemer’s seemingly impossible mission that he applied to the whole score – breaking those two Schifrin themes down and constructing the score by building them back up into other things as well as quoting them in all their glory.

The second cue, “Solomon Lane”, is fantastic – there’s an exotic quality to the motif developed through the cue, but it gets added dramatic weight as it progresses, a growing intensity as Kraemer ratchets the suspense right up (close your eyes when you listen to it and you just might think of John Barry’s late-60s Bond scores).  There is an elegance to it rarely heard in a film such as this, at least in recent years.  It’s brilliant stuff, one of the cues of the year.

The score continues very much in this vein, one orchestral powerhouse after another.  As noted, snippets of Schifrin are dotted liberally through it, and the action music throughout is impressive.  Cues like “Escape to Danger”, “Morocco Pursuit” and “A Foggy Night in London” are really first-rate.  Notable too is just how good – and how interesting – the suspense material is, particularly the way Kraemer uses winds to add flavour and build intrigue.  There are also doses of the kind of “exotic travelogue” music films like this should always have – the Cuban opening to “Havana to Vienna” is done well and segues into yet more great action; “The Syndicate” isn’t quite the same, but there’s a breezy European flair to it that’s quite delightful.  More surprising is the final theme heard in the score, which is an interpolation of the melody from Puccini’s famous (and glorious) “Nessun Dorma”; it’s done quite subtly and satisfyingly.

This has been a film franchise which has attracted some fine music – I’ve enjoyed all the previous scores even in the films that didn’t hit the mark – and Joe Kraemer has contributed something of real quality to it.  Danny Elfman’s score for the first one may remain the high water mark – but it’s a close-run thing.  Kraemer’s music is intelligent, entertaining, old school in the best way, and sustains interest over the lengthy album.  The physical release from La-La Land includes a few minutes more content than the download.  I really liked Jack Reacher but in a contest (Kraemer vs Kraemer) this one’s even better.

Rating: **** | |

Tags: , ,

  1. Mike (Reply) on Thursday 13 August, 2015 at 01:34

    Loving this score- best score of the summer (along with Ant-Man and Inside out). The sound is great, and unlike Giacchino’s 2 scores, it’s not totally predictable. I almost wish the actual opera scene music was included, but that shouldn’t be too hard to track down 🙂

  2. tiago (Reply) on Thursday 13 August, 2015 at 02:51

    Indeed it’s one of the best action/adventure scores of the summer, tied with Ant-Man and Jurassic World, and only a bit behind the wonderful Tomorrowland. And I hope the success of the film and all the good reviews the score is getting help Joe Kraemer to work on more Hollywood films, and with more directors other than Christopher McQuarrie.

  3. ANDRÉ - Cape Town. (Reply) on Thursday 13 August, 2015 at 12:47

    I viewed M.I. last night, and was awed by the sound, orchestration, tempo & metamorphosis of LALO SCHIFRIN’S primary TV theme. The exoticism of Islamic/Arabian countries inspire magnificent themes from film composers… and KRAEMER’S theme for Morocco is just beautiful–up there with the best that GOLDSMITH, JARRE, DELERUE, NEWTON-HOWARD and DEBNEY composed. It’s reprised during the ‘Credits’ sequence as the Casablanca film- unit is credited. There’s a lack-lustre adaptation of the Opera ‘Turandot’s’ Nessum Dorma (PUCCINI) – it’s the love theme for an ageing Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson [she speaks English beautifully but make-up & hair, if imaginatively styled, might have enhanced her ordinary looks]. Their theme is the only time KRAEMER introduces an emotive quality, of sorts, to his score. The rest of this ALMOST non-stop score follows familiar, time-tested formulaic writing and doesn’t approach HAN ZIMMER’S memorable take on M.I.-2 in 2000.

  4. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Thursday 13 August, 2015 at 13:13

    Hans Zimmer’s take on Mission Impossible wasn’t necessarily memorable for the right reasons.

  5. Javier Pizarro (Reply) on Saturday 14 November, 2015 at 02:07

    I feel that the score, while good, shared some similarities with Giacchino’s work for the franchise. The main differences in my opinion is some of the sparseness when compared to Michael’s material(as was stated in the review) and Ghost Protocol and MI-3 have much more of emphasis on percussion and non orchestral elements (especially on the main theme) which to be honest I prefer. However the application and arrangement of the themes in Kramer’s entry are really fun to listen to. I would love to here an entry from Him that deviates from the theme next time because I really enjoy his work.