Even at the age of 53, actor Tom Cruise is willing to push the boundaries and add yet another action-packed blockbuster to his resume. Each one of Mission: Impossible films is highlighted by at least one spectacular stunt sequence performed by the actor himself. In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation he pulled off his most hair-raising antic yet – holding on to an outside of a plane door while it takes off. It might actually top the spectacular climbing and swinging scenes filmed at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (in 2011’s Ghost Protocol). No matter your opinion of the man himself, it does take some balls to go that far.
The Mission: Impossible franchise has, of course, it own rich musical history. Danny Elfman created a whimsical and European-flavoured accompaniment to Brian De Palma’s first film, Hans Zimmer’s rock adaptation of television themes for John Woo’s action-packed second chapter was a considerable stylistic departure (somewhat typical of its time). Finally, Michael Giacchino injected a lot of fun and humour into his two, relatively lighthearted, entries. It’s quite a heritage to behold. Each one of those composers, in their own way, paid tribute to Lalo Schifrin’s material from the original show. Now, Joe Kraemer fills those shoes, thus scoring his first major big budget film. Much bigger than Jack Reacher from a few years back.
Unlike its predecessors, which used old themes in fairly restrained manner, Rogue Nation is packed with multiple variations on Lalo Schifrin’s core themes. Both main and “the plot” tunes are intertwined with Kraemer’s original writing, often forming the rhythmic basis for his own exciting material. The opening action sequence is a great encapsulation of composer’s approach (‘The A400’) where the kinetic action sequence is spiced up with some nods to stylish spy sound of cinema/television of old.
A new thematic material was created for the film as well, in a similar way other composers contributed to their respective scores. For Mission: Impossible -Rogue Nation’s principal villain, Kraemer introduces his surprisingly tender secondary theme, which can be heard fully heard in the second track (‘Solomon Lane’). Somewhat mysterious and melancholic, this melody is not quite what you’d expect from a production like this. Ethan Hunt is represented by more elusive nods to Lalo Schifrin’s themes.
There is a nice old fashioned groovy vibe to action sequences. Pieces like ‘A Foggy Night in London’, ‘A Flight at the Opera’, ‘Moroccan Pursuit’ explode with the similar kind of orchestral enthusiasm to the music that David Arnold once brought to James Bond franchise. Having said that, Rogue Nation is not quite as action-packed as you might think. Quite the contrary, the mysterious suspense material is very prevalent and Kramer plays around with moodier and darker colours in cues like ‘Grave Consequences’ and ‘A Matter of Going’ (despite the Puccini cameo in the latter). ‘The Plan and ‘The Torus’ offer some of notable trademark musical heist sequences, in which Kramer creates a steady pulse for carefully choreographed action on screen.
Among other Mission: Impossible trademarks are some slight geographic references to add some colour to Ethan Hunt’s globetrotting adventures – some hits of Cuban music can be heard in ‘Havana To Vienna’. The score is completely devoid of any electronic instruments, something not quite as obvious in the modern thriller genre landscape (which usually propelled by drum loops and Jason Bourne-like string ostinatos). In that sense, it’s a distinguishing feature among other big screen versions (perhaps with the exception of J.J. Abrams’ version). On the whole, Rogue Nation feels more nostalgic towards suspenseful and grounded sound of the original show. Yes, we get to hear some nice and fun setpieces but they feel considerably less tongue-in-cheek. At least as compared to the scores of Michael Giacchino and Danny Elfman.
The long 73 minute album is getting a physical release from La-La Land Records. While the programme is certainly long, it never really suffers from any dull spots. The listening experience flows well and seems to organically develop Kraemer’s material. It might not be as light and breezy as, say, Ghost Protocol, but it nevertheless offers a classy, well composed and extremely reverent interpretation of Lalo Schifrin’s legacy. As such, it stands as the most mature and serious score in this film series.
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is out now from La-La Land Records