Ramin Djawadi’s score to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is pretty much what most of the press reviews say about the show itself – it’s OK. Not great, but not awful either.
I won’t lie, I had somewhat high expectations when I first listened to this score. Ramin Djawadi as a composer is held in fairly high regard at the moment, having scored the first Iron Man movie and currently working on the incredibly popular Game Of Thrones television series. When I heard he had been tapped to compose the music for Amazon’s Jack Ryan show I did get a little excited. This excitement however was sadly unfounded, as for the most part Djawadi’s score to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is dull, with only a few standout pieces of music. The action music in particular is a letdown, being surprisingly few and far between, and what we do get is just fairly standard. The music is good sure, but it’s just no different to any other action music.
The album opens with an extended version of the Main Title for the show, and this track if nothing else is the biggest indication of how sleep inducing much of Djawadi’s score is going to be. The piece is incredibly simple, starting out with slow melodical guitar notes before a piano comes into frame playing incrementally higher pitched notes repeatedly. Backing percussion then kicks in for the final ten seconds and the music stops. There’s no sign of an end or even a finishing note, it just stops. If I am honest, the track as a whole is so simple and so utterly half-hearted it is difficult to even try to draw themes or atmosphere from it. It sounds dark, I guess but all in there’s just nothing to take from it. Main Title is just nothing musically, and I don’t say that very often.
Thankfully the rest of the score isn’t anywhere near as empty, starting with Jack Ryan, Analyst. My heart did sink as the track opened however, as the same dull notes from Main Title began playing. This doesn’t last long however as the main theme of the show then kicks in for it’s first and rather upbeat rendition. Strings and percussion do most of the work in this track, and overall it sounds far more hopeful and even thematic than the previous one. The main Jack Ryan theme is decent, and having now listened to the entire score it is interesting to hear the theme in it’s more simple office-based form before it evolves into more heroic territory later on. A theme that can change easily to fit with whatever the character it is representing is doing or feeling is always a good theme.
Cobalt Cowboy is up next, and already we get to hear the main Jack Ryan theme in it’s far better heroic form. Sadly this doesn’t last long as the epic music fades as quickly as it arrives, but it is an appreciated appearance all the same. The score then descends into a darker area with some sinister sounding action music before the track closes out and one of the best tracks on the score begins. The Price Of Freedom is a much slower and more strings-based piece of music with Middle Eastern elements taking up the background. It is one of those tracks that feels like the hero is staring up at the sky and making a speech to the one he loves about how he needs to go and save the world. Woodwinds stand out here as the more emotional and heroic parts of the music, but strings also do a great job in the background of really hammering the atmosphere home.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan really stands out in its emotional cues, and Heart Of Hanin is no exception. Like The Price Of Freedom woodwinds take the forefront with strings in backing, and overall we get another slow and very emotional piece that honestly sounds more like music from a movie than a TV show. This peace doesn’t last long however as By The Grace Of Greer changes things up, switching from slow and peaceful to more determined and heroic. Backing drums accompany uplifting and epic-sounding strings to deliver a pretty powerful and inspiring track, and all in it is one of the best tracks on the album, beaten only by the main theme.
Action then takes up the majority of the back end of the score, most notably in The Long Way Round and Breach. The first of the two starts out slowly before gradually picking up the pace with ominous-sounding drums and frantic strings which play out for a good two minutes before the music slows back down for a somewhat creepy and dark finish. Breach then starts out in a similarly slow manner with percussion taking the forefront before strings kick in after about a minute. There are hints to the main Jack Ryan theme as the music picks up the pace, becoming faster and more frantic before brass and loud drums then kick in to end the piece. The action music of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan overall is mostly like this, being rather dull and without substance. These two tracks I felt were the best example of it, and it is a shame especially considering action doesn’t take the forefront in this score. An opportunity missed, I feel.
The standout cue of the album is Jack Ryan – Main Theme, being by far the most interesting of the music here. This is the more heroic and dramatic variation of the Jack Ryan, Analyst theme that I talked about earlier, and it is far superior – taking the theme to much bolder lengths. Brass takes centre stage with backing strings at a fast pace for the track’s just under two minute runtime, and overall it makes for a great listen. One comment I feel I have to make is that it does sound like the music from a videogame main menu screen, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It definitely has that epic feel of a badass action shooter, which is great considering this is a theme for Jack Ryan. If there is one thing Djawadi has nailed here, it is the main theme.
Overall, the score to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is solidly OK. The main theme is great, but the action suffers a great deal from just being mediocre and lacking substance. It’s just boring, and I have no desire to listen to the more action oriented elements of this score again. The more emotional side is what saves the album however, with tracks like The Price Of Freedom and Heart Of Hanin far overshadowing the duller other parts. All in the score is good, but I feel it could have been a lot better, especially considering how great Djawadi’s main theme is. It could have been used a lot more, and I think if used in the right way it could have saved the action music. A solid effort overall Mr. Djawadi, but not without several rather large faults.
Standout Cue: 22. Jack Ryan – Main Theme