CD: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

August 6, 2015 | By


MissionImpossibleRogueNationScore: Excellent

Label: La-La Land Records

Released:  August 4, 2015


Tracks / Album Length:  19 tracks / (73:21)

Composer: Joe Kraemer

Special Notes:  n/a




Joe Kraemer’s real auspicious debut came in the form of the oddball The Way of the Gun (2000), the directorial debut of The Usual Suspects (1995) writer Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie went back to screenwriting for a lengthy period and re-emerged as director of Jack Reacher (2012), this time opting for a decisive 70s suspense thriller where violence remained just under the hood instead of being overt and visually chaotic.

Kraemer’s Jack Reacher score was similarly low key, best characterized as waves of orchestral snarls dialed down and elongated into a series of near-eruptions, often setting up a revelation, a chase, or shock but reeling back from any bombast.

That film showed Kraemer had been pining to escape the doldrums of TV and score an A-level feature with orchestra, so when McQuarrie reunited with Reacher star Tom Cruise for the latest Mission: Impossible installment, the emphasis would naturally involve action – thereby testing Kraemer’s chops for a more kinetic motion picture score.

Grounded by Lalo Schifrin’s greatest theme, Kraemer does stick with a similar big sound as employed by Michael Giacchino  in both prior MI films, but what’s surprising is Kraemer’s decision to stick with a full organic orchestra, burying any electronics (if he even bothered to implement them).

The opening track (“The A400”) has bongos and wooden sticks reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s score for the first franchise installment, but Kraemer emphasizes big brass and sweeping strings for a score that’s more symphonic than orchestral jazz.

The fidelity to a classical symphonic sound also includes little moments of humour, not to mention some ethnic tinged harmonics, as in the swaying Middle Eastern sections of “Solomon Lane” which unfurl with an initial playfulness, but like Kraemer’ Reacher, the music keeps stirring around until there’s a massive buildup with strings and brass like a James Bondian fugue. The piece is a work of art, and should convince the keepers of the Bond franchise that Kraemer is quite well suited to tackle a 007 adventure – but one featuring great substance in character, drama, and action.

The longest cue is “The Torus” where a pulse keeps drifting to, from, and blending with sections performed by brass, woodwinds, and strings. It’s a cue where momentum is locked tightly to a firm tempo, and tension is maintained by sounds that drift and coalesce, but there’s no big kaboom within its 7 minute running time – just the inference of deadly danger and converging nastiness (although more intense brass and percussion and brought in during the final sections).

The following cue, “Moroccan Pursuit,” presents all those figures in full action mode, with some exotic percussion at the peripherals, an increasingly tense tempo, and slightly more percussion. The reliance on brass is really unusual in the sense that Kraemer could’ve easily packed his action tracks with bombast or dense drum textures, but there’s a formalism to the score in the way it starts up, hits specific marks, and gets out of the way – either due to sound effects, dialogue, or Kraemer’s own sensibilities that felt the film’s existing visual collage of wild stunts can be as potent as bombast when working in concert with the churning sounds of his orchestra.

Naturally the score wraps up with a jazz orchestra rendition of the MI theme and a suite of action and suspense motifs that apparently function as the film’s End Credit music – a welcome substitute for the more conventional closing vocal track. The end suite makes the album feel wholly complete, flowing as one epic symphonic work that demands proper listening to relish the nuances of Kraemer’s best work to date.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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