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Lone Survivor by Explosions In The Sky & Steve Jablonsky (Review)

posted Feb 10, 2014, 10:01 PM by Kaya Savas

Peter Berg is a director still trying to find his style, or is a director who is trying every style there is. Unfortunately, in my opinion the first step for a director to find a style is to find a composer to collaborate with over the span of several films. Of course there are some exceptions to this like Terrence Malick or Stanley Kubrick. But mostly it's hard to be a Steven Spielberg without your John Williams. Some directors can be stubborn in their musical visions, which may or may not help the film. Berg’s films have been scored by great composers like Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell, Danny Elfman and Steve Jablonsky. However it seems like Explosion In The Sky’s music for Friday Night Lights found the biggest life outside of any of Berg's films. So he brought them in for Lone Survivor, which is surprisingly the first time Berg has reused a composer. So, Explosions In The Sky gave it there go, but having a Texas rock band score a war film makes as much sense as Philip Glass scoring Transformers. So, as the score needed some help getting pushed in the right direction it was Steve Jablonsky who scored Battleship for Berg that was called on. Jablonsky came in after Explosions In The Sky was done and actually never worked with them. The result is a surpassingly decent score that borderlines too ambient at times, but still has its feet planted firmly to get the job done. 

The good thing about Explosions In The Sky is that they have a very distinct style and a musical voice. The fact that a band of guys can sound like one unified voice is actually very impressive, and even if their range is quite limited they can still do minor shifts in their soundscape to nudge the music where it needs to go. However the distance the score travels from its starting point isn’t very far. Imagine a straight horizontal line, that is the grounding maybe represented by the central theme or a central motif. A good score will travel up and down creating sharp edges and waves as the line continues from the start of the film to the end. For Explosions In The Sky their line would look pretty straight all the way across. There isn’t that much variation to the music here. They are trying to be focused and precise to create tension, I completely understand that approach. But I think instead of tension building they’re instead just filling space. Jablonsky’s additions do help a bit, but you can tell he’s trying to fit his work into an already establish body. By doing that he’s trying to match what is already around him so his music doesn’t stand out too much, and that is a bit limiting for him. His several tracks do add a bit more emphasis that the music needed, but it's not enough to make this score something substantial. 

Lone Survivor has a few great moments, and it’s a very serviceable score that will immerse you with its style if you let it. Explosions In The Sky’s limited dramatic range do hold the score back from doing anything very memorable, and in return it becomes a mixture of ambient textures and tones. Steve Jablonsky’s tracks add that needed urgency and emotional resonance, but I think the score would have been much better off if Steve ran the whole show. I applaud Berg for taking a chance musically here, and all in all it did work… for the most part.