The scores for the Mission Impossible movies have always been highly anticipated, and Lorne Balfe’s score for Fallout was no exception. So the question is, was it worth the wait?
No. It really wasn’t.
The scores for the Mission Impossible films have always been a greatly anticipated event, particularly because of their usage of the iconic Mission Impossible theme composed by Lalo Schifrin. This in combination with excellent action music as well as a string of well known and highly praised composers has created a high bar for the soundtracks for these films, which is why when Lorne Balfe was announced as composer for Fallout the news was met with a series of sighs and groans from the soundtrack community.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Balfe. The issue I think is that the previous compositions for the Mission: Impossible films were highly praised, particularly Joe Kraemer’s work from the previous installment (Rogue Nation). So when it was revealed that he would not be returning for the next film and instead would be replaced by Balfe, it was met by a fair bit of backlash. While Balfe has composed for a fair amount of movies (Terminator Genisys, Lego Batman) he isn’t quite hitting the same highs that previous Impossible composers Hans Zimmer and Michael Giacchino are. Hence the criticism.
I however was keen to keep an open mind, so when the score for Fallout was randomly dropped on iTunes last night I grabbed it immediately and gave it a listen. Several listens in fact. And if I am honest, I was rather disappointed.
The album opens with A Storm Is Coming, and you can already feel that fast-paced Mission Impossible action as rapid drums kick in right off the bat. They are met shortly afterwards with loud and perilous-sounding brass and strings that tell you immediately that the stakes are high. However, while certainly exciting the music does little to satisfy the high bar the previous scores have set, containing nothing really thematic or of substance. This is slightly better than average generic action music in a franchise famous for not having it.
The action continues through Your Mission to Good Evening Mr. Hunt, still using the same strings and brass combination throughout. It is here however that we hear the first hint of the classic Mission Impossible theme for the first time on this album, and I certainly breathed a sigh of relief when I heard it. Finally, this score is going somewhere interesting. This relief was short lived however, as the theme disappears as quickly as it arrived.
Change Of Plan is the first track on this album that gave me real hope for the rest of the score. It starts slowly and ominously before building up with strings and initially quiet brass into a full on action setpiece. About halfway through Balfe also brings in vocals, which is a questionable choice but in this case it works very well. Change Of Plan is a very edge-of-your-seat track, which is exactly what the action in a Mission Impossible album should be like. There might be hope for you yet, Mr. Balfe.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Mission Impossible theme finally returns in a track entitled Fallout, which is presumably the main titles piece of the album. The classic Impossible drums and brass return in this intriguing rendition, and Balfe makes a curious move by slowing down various segments of the theme that moves the music from high-octane action to a much more serious and almost haunting style. It is a very interesting thematic decision by the composer, and I like it. It’s new and different which makes it compelling, and the theme works well in its new style.
Stairs & Rooftops marks the return of the action, and here Balfe makes another intriguing decision by using a piano during various segments of the fast-paced drums and brass. It gives the track a slightly creepy mood that compliments the action, and this in combination with Balfe’s new vocals and a few notes of the classic Impossible theme creates the most interesting and standout cue of this score.
Unfortunately, the composer then dives right back into the dull strings and brass combination from the start of the album, and this continues from Free Fall all the way to Escape Through Paris. It is a shame because he has a new and interesting take on Impossible’s action music with Stairs & Rooftops, but just decides not to use it for a great deal of the album. The next track of interest is We Are Never Free, because surprisingly the dull action takes a break for a melancholic strings-based emotional piece that is actually quite pleasant to listen to. The vocals return once again as well as pianos for one of the stronger tracks on this otherwise fairly boring score.
The score then begins to finish up with one last action segment starting in Fate Whispers To The Warrior and not ending until Cutting On One. Like much of the action here there isn’t too much to say about this segment, as it follows the same dull rules and style as most of the more fast-paced music on this album. The Last Resort then makes for a more interesting ending to the score, finishing up on an action based cliffhanger-sounding note before descending into the closing titles rendition of the Impossible theme in Mission Accomplished. Here Balfe oddly uses vocals to back the classic notes, which was not a good decision as it sounds fairly terrible if I am brutally honest.
Overall, Lorne Balfe’s score to Mission Impossible: Fallout is bland at best. For a music franchise famous for its far from generic action music he does an excellent job of doing the opposite; much of this album is just the same dull fast-paced orchestra, with little substance or anything resembling a new theme. There are a few tracks that break this (such as Stairs & Rooftops) with some fresh musical ideas but sadly Balfe doesn’t seem keen on using them for most of the album. The classic Impossible theme also appears infrequently and should be around more, especially as it sounded particularly good in the Fallout track.
Sorry, Mr. Balfe. We expected more from you.
Standout Cue: 9. Stairs & Rooftops