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Monday, January 18, 2016

Soundtrack Review: @13Hours - The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi

The score goes a long way to prop up the film's central flaws.

Review by Matt Cummings

If you've read our review of the Michael Bay film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi, you know our love for its performances was slightly outweighed by Bay's jingoistic sabre-rattling. One thing we forgot to mention in that assessment was Composer Lorne Balfe's score: it's certainly not what you'd expect from a siege film, but works quite well in shaking up our expectations for this kind of music.

If you're used to the bombastic music belting from Bay's association with Hans Zimmer and Steve Jablonsky, 13 Hours is markedly different: it reminds us that there might be a deeper Director Michael Bay here than indistinguishable robots with giant balls and women who need to visit a clothing store.

A lot of the 13 tracks have a distinct electronic personality, fed by a chorus of violins and pianos. Hero is a sullen start to things: filled with dark electronic tones that eventually give way to piano and a deeper ensemble of electronic devices, we move into the very different Welcome to Benghazi, which starts with a low-end electronic beat and accompanying atmospherics, before ending in a wave of chase beats, reminiscent of Jason Bourne. Second tracks tell you a lot about how a score will end up and early on its clear Balfe has his mind on both big and small themes. Downtime's the Worst is a dark ballad, while Burn Them Out becomes the first true assault piece against the ambassador begins. Burn's drums and strings its way through, ending in what fees like Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy. And that's a good thing.

Calling Home and Engage Direct seek similar inspirations (and emerge victorious); but it's not until Track 7 that we get our true theme for the film. The Last Resort is a strings-led affair, which will reminding you of Transformers, but with a ton more soul. The end credits for the film suggest that Zimmer helped craft this one, and his fingerprints feel close to the pulse of this one. It's a very strong piece and one of my favorites of the 13 tracks. All the Gods is an electronic trumpet ballad, which just shows you the diversity of instruments Balfe uses here as his leads. The same goes with The Teams, which features electric guitar early and ends with pulsing pursuit drum beats.

Forgotten, which is the longest of the tracks (9:10), starts slowly and quietly, its keyboards strings adding to the solemn mood as the film progresses and the US body count climbs. Even the piano coda rings a bitter tone. It's another of my favorites, a powerful reminder of the risks our brave soldiers encounter on the way to defending our freedom. I also love All the Hells and Going Home, as our survivors escape the madness of Benghazi. Home reminds that there is hope, if not closure, for our heroes. The experience concludes with 13 Hours, a restatement (not a copy) of the film's main theme as the credits roll. The coda will make you want to immediately add this one to your favorites playlist.

The music for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi is a powerful musical experience. For those of us who love the war element infusing themselves into our favorite films, Lorne Balfe has made a compelling entry. It's an instant candidate for top score of the year, not because it's early but because it's so good. I wish the film had been as strong, but it's clear that any appreciation I have for it is partially due to this rewarding score. If you didn't read our review of the movie, check it our here.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


Rowena Hailey April 2, 2016 at 7:54 AM  
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Rowena Hailey April 9, 2016 at 10:45 PM  

This movie is excellent. I was a little nervous going in due to the bad reviews but I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were wrong. This is a great movie in the spirit of Blackhawk Down and American Sniper. The negative reviews are politically motivated.

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