Lorne Balfe’s The Tomorrow War score sports a excellently-crafted main theme and some truly sublime orchestration, and that combined with an eerie counter-motif for the alien Whitespikes and several enjoyable action setpieces makes the album overall a strong listening experience indeed.
The Tomorrow War is a new sci-fi action movie directed by Chris McKay, starring Chris Pratt and Yvonne Strahovski as time-travelling soldiers who travel into the past looking for warriors to help them win a war against a hostile alien species back in the future. Overall – sounds like a pretty good premise for a high octane film score with a memorable main theme, doesn’t it? Well, Lorne Balfe has been tasked with scoring duties for this particular science fiction epic, and in terms of fulfilling those above premised expectations – I have to say, he actually did a pretty damned good job, especially with the main theme. So, with the score teased and expectations high, without further ado – let’s get started.
Interestingly though, the score doesn’t actually begin with the promised high octane action music (that comes later), first track Multiply instead actually opens rather coldly; with quiet, ominous vocals whispering away in the background accompanied by the occasional flurry of higher-pitched, more worrisome vocals overlaying the original ones. All-in it’s a decidedly atmospheric start to the album, and one that pretty much immediately grabs your attention in an unnerving, hair-standing-on-end kind of way. Things then get a little more rapid in the subsequent Spikes Attack, with high-pitched horror-like strings opening the piece before a crash of percussion then signals action start, accompanied swiftly by frequent bursts of aggravated brass. This rather frantic pace then continues throughout the track’s opening minute, before then slowing somewhat towards the end of the piece as the music turns from anxious to almost heroic, and the opening notes of the score’s main theme start to play…just as the track then closes out. The anxious tone from earlier then returns in Who’s With Us, with creepy, heartbeat-like electronics and the occasional burst of strained brass keeping tensions high through much of the track’s four minute runtime.
Loud percussion opens Reunited, with hopeful brass then rising in the background to slowly but surely pull the score out of its previously downtrodden mood. As the track continues, the orchestra then starts to fade into play, building and growing until a particularly grandiose crescendo is reached at the two and a half minute mark, with the track then ending a few seconds later. Back To The Past then starts to retread melancholic tones with low-pitched, moody electronics and solemn piano notes taking centre stage, but this doesn’t last for long as standout cue The Tomorrow War then enters the fray, and it’s here that we finally get our first proper look at the score’s main theme. This five minute setpiece is structured like many RCP-esque theme tracks; opening quietly and then slowly building to epic crescendo, with the theme on prominent and increasingly heroic display throughout. What makes this particular track so damned great though is the motif itself; it’s dramatic, grandiose and quite memorable, and it gets a happily lengthy and properly orchestral showcase here, complete with loud, emphatic brass, militaristic drums and flurries of exquisite-sounding strings. Speaking of which, what also properly stands out here is the quality of the orchestration; in short, it sounds absolutely phenomenal, and I was pretty blown away by just how great it sounds here. Overall, if you’re looking for a good reason to get into Balfe’s Tomorrow War score, this track is most certainly it.
The whispering vocals from Multiply return in The Whitespikes, joining together with rapid, ominous drums and infrequent bursts of aggressive electronics to overall form a creepy, villainous theme for the alien antagonists of the film; the titular Whitespikes. This dramatic combination then comes to a particularly loud crescendo at the three minute mark, emphasizing the music’s now particularly malevolent tone before the cue then closes out. The orchestra then fully enters the fray in The Draft, with ferocious brass leading the opening charge for a minute of fist-pumpingly heroic score dashing alongside several notes from the main theme. The moody vocals-esque motif for the aliens then also makes a brief ominous appearance as the track continues, with the main theme then loudly interjecting once again for a further minute of tense action that then finishes on a crashingly dramatic crescendo. Frantic strings then burst straight out of the gate in Goodbye, with a few brisk notes from the main theme sounding through on triumphant brass. Things then turn a little more worrisome as the track continues, with tense action pushing through the heroism on imposing, in-your-face percussion. The eight minute So It Begins is then up next; a lengthy electronic piece that opens with a brief playthrough of the vocal motif for the aliens before the electronics then fully take over; these build in a slow, Dunkirk-esque fashion throughout the track’s runtime, reaching several increasingly dramatic and intense crescendos and overall making for an emphatic if not slightly drawn-out action setpiece overall.
Message From The Future gives the action a break for a few minutes, slowing the pace down to a gentle crawl with quiet, pensive strings and hopeful, lengthy brass notes. As the more tranquil nature of this cue then fades away, The Nest cuts in with a burst of some particularly agitated-sounding strings, then joined a few seconds later by equally aggravated brass and imposing percussion. As the music continues, electronics then also start to fade into the track, slowly becoming louder and more prominent until having pretty much completely taking over the cue by its end. The creepy vocal motif for the alien antagonists then returns once again in Test Tubes, with subsequent orchestration then setting a particularly horror-like tone with high-pitched strings and low, ominous brass. A small glimmer of hope is heard just as the track starts to fade out, with a few notes from the main theme playing quietly but bravely on downtrodden brass. The Cube then amplifies this new hope tenfold, with the main theme appearing in loudly grandiose form for the first time since the standout cue, and reaching some pretty spectacular musical heights. Emphatic drums, rising brass and cheerful electronics also make for some particularly enjoyable orchestration here.
As the album starts to reach its end, Pushing then turns the tone tense once again with cold, pulsating electronics setting a particularly eerie mood. These then slowly rise in intensity over the course of the next few minutes, with strings and brass also fading into view until a loud, dramatic crescendo is reached and the track comes to a close. Slow, mournful strings then open Colonel Forester, with long, drawn-out brass notes then emphasizing this melancholic change in tone. This doesn’t last for long however as hope then starts to edge back in at around the one minute mark, led by the main theme playing slowly but surely on increasingly confident brass. This thematic appearance doesn’t last for very long either, but it does set off a crescendo of musical hope that then ends the cue on a loud and decidedly grandiose brassy note. Low-pitched, quietly hopeful electronics open Dan Forester, with the orchestra slowly fading into prominence and brass then starting to lead a musical charge. Together the instruments rise in both volume and intensity as the track continues, with loud drums also entering the fray until everything then loudly crescendos to end the piece. To close out the album proper, Homecoming then brings back the orchestra in full heroic form for two loudly emphatic minutes, though curiously sans main theme as the album then ends on a boldly triumphant note.
Overall, Lorne Balfe’s score The Tomorrow War is pretty damned enjoyable. It sports an excellently-crafted main theme that sticks in your head pretty much from the get-go as well as an eerie, effective counter-motif for the hostile alien Whitespikes of the film, and together these themes form a solid thematic baseline throughout the score. The compositional style here is also of particular highlight, as it features some genuinely gorgeous orchestration that gives the whole album a crisp, quality sound, though it stands at its absolute best playing the main theme in proudly grandiose form during standout cue The Tomorrow War; where the motif gets a happily lengthy and magnificently orchestrated five minute playthrough. Speaking of though, I do feel that perhaps the main theme could have been used a bit more, particularly towards the end of the album where the action gets heavy. It’s a great motif after all, and I would’ve liked to have heard it shown off in grand, heroic form on brass just that little bit extra. Still, what we do get here is pretty great; the theme, the atmosphere, the orchestra; that combined with several uplifting cues in the back half (see Homecoming) and many an exciting action setpiece throughout, and overall I’d still say Balfe has a definite winner here.
Standout Cue: 6. The Tomorrow War
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