Composer duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross take over for Peter Berg collaborator Steve Jablonsky on Patriots Day, the film based on the Boston marathon bombings from 2013. The film is stylistically very similar from Berg's Deepwater Horizon from earlier in 2016, also based on true events. Slick and modern action is a staple of Berg's filmmaking prowess, and Patriots Day is no different in that regard. From cinematography to editing and score, there is a through line of continuity found in all his projects.
Anyone familiar with Reznor or Ross shouldn't be surprised by this score. It is everything you would expect from them and nothing more, which could either be good or bad depending on your tastes. However, I will say that the music here is much more nondescript than their usual efforts. Melody and rhythm are often scarified for tonal synth drones that sustain tension and atmosphere for extended periods of time. Much of the runtime is dedicated to these sorts of musical structures that do little in the way of a listening experience, but do wonders in terms of supporting an emotion or characteristic trait within the film. The highlight of the score is the one-two punch of "The Night Drive" and "Escape." A combined 19 minutes, these two cues underscore the climax of the film and do an excellent job of supporting the narrative by slowly building to the bursts of action that inevitably occur. Pulsing synth rhythms underline the score's main melodic motif of modified piano keys collectively repeating to a swelling tempo. As the music cuts into "Escape" we are assaulted with cacophonous layers of synth that bleed away into a more gentle pace accented by piano before building back into action mode again. There's a method to the madness here despite the subtleties in how Reznor and Ross write.
Patriots Day is not a particularly noteworthy score in the grand scheme of things, but for those that enjoy the modern sound of action scoring there is much to enjoy here. There is little in the way of melody or thematic structure, leaving it up to the rhythm and tempo to control the rising action in the narrative.
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