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Kill The Messenger by Nathan Johnson (Review)

posted Dec 2, 2014, 4:15 PM by Kaya Savas

Nathan Johnson has consistently impressed listeners over the years with his ability to truly craft a soundscape unique to the picture it was accompanying. When you say “political thriller” or “international conspiracy” that can easily summon groans from audiences. However, there is no need to groan for Kill The Messenger. Johnson manages to take this true story about a journalist uncovering secrets about the government's involvement in illegal drug trading and turn into a pretty stylistic venture.

Like most political thrillers, Kill The Messenger does follow a certain formula. The music presents the situation and starts to poke intrigue into it. Slowly and with expert precision, Johnson does the musical equivalent of peeling away layers of an onion to reveal what’s hiding at the core. Once we get to that core, the score does an admirable job of keeping the danger level high thus creating this suspenseful intensity. I love how Johnson utilized percussion to keep this pulsing rhythm that propels forward, but also adds a sense of anxiety to the whole thing. And those moments of stylistic surges are what make the score memorable. The use of guitar here feels a bit unoriginal, especially when it’s used to add that ever so slight hint of Latin American flavor without going all out with the ethnic instrumentation. The score treads that line of cliche in one or two places, but never crosses it. Since it never crosses that line, we end up with an overall package that feels wholly original and unique to the story that’s unfolding. Johnson is able to inject enough stylistic touches to make the score something beyond the generic thriller, and that makes the score worth exploring.

Kill The Messenger could have easily been a simple and generic political thriller. However, with a composer like Johnson at the helm we get a score that goes beyond the established structure to give us something with just the right amount of uniqueness. By blending electronics with guitar and crisp percussion, we get a score that is able to hold the intense suspense of the story. Johnson finds way to make the score stylishly unique, such as the use of droning car horns to add this sense of dread. In the end there is plenty to admire in Kill The Messenger even if the score dances very close to the line of generic and formulaic.