By Marcelo Macario
Note: This review contains spoilers for the film Furious 7
With Furious 7, Composer and avid car enthusiast Brian Tyler returns to the franchise he helped shape when Justin Lin hired him to score The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. His infectious mix of electronics, groovy-ness, rock and orchestra made that score a favorite amongst fans of the Fast franchise music. As director Justin Lin moved away from the straight-up street-race elements of Tokyo Drift and into the more character-focused, action/heist ideal that would dominate the franchise, Tyler’s score to 2009’s Fast and Furious would yield the most thematic, orchestral score heard in the franchise. Tyler continued this trend in the smash hit Fast Five (2011), introducing an official theme for the gang. After skipping out on Fast and Furious 6 (2013), probably due to time constraints, Tyler improves upon that thematic take in Furious 7.
Fans of Tokyo Drift’s electronic/orchestral/rock mesh will perk their ears up when the title cue ‘Furious 7’ plays. The monotone 7-note Main theme returns from Fast Five in a more upbeat and heroic expression, representing the change in the characters storyline from criminals to heroes. The main theme is sprinkled throughout the score with bold, on-key expressions and the cue ‘Beast in the Cage’ represents the nicest variations on it. Played alongside the Main theme, in the cue ‘Furious 7’, is Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) 7-note theme, heard on strings starting at the 10-second mark. Interestingly, the cue features a prominent vibe of EDM/Dubstep, genres of music Brian Tyler is a fan of at the moment. However, EDM/Dubstep is not prominently featured in the score, with it being interestingly assigned to the minimal music associated to Luke Hobbs. In ‘Hobbs vs Shaw’, Tyler brings in the EDM element midway through the cue, whilst hearing action-y variations on Hobbs simple 7-note theme. A bold, orchestral rendition is heard in ‘About to Get Real Serious Up in Here’, when Hobbs decides to join the final action sequence in the film, essentially obtaining superpowers in order to leave the hospital and join his friends. The full musical idea for Hobbs can be heard more clearly in the beginning of ‘Hobbs is the Cavalry’. In that same cue, you get a taste of the villain’s icy theme, representing Jason Statham’s revenge-seeking Deckard Shaw. Starting at around 1:35, a twice-repeated, descending four-note string motif is played. A fuller idea, with its accompanying 2-note rising guitar motif, can be heard in the beginning of the cues ‘Hobbs vs Shaw’ and ‘Vow for Revenge’. It’s a motif that is sparsely heard in the score and is ultimately difficult to point out amid the rousing action music.
With Michelle Rodriguez’s character Letty Oritz back from the dead in Fast and Furious 6, her theme is brought back into this score. Arguably the best theme Brian Tyler has written for the franchise, Letty’s theme truly shines in this score and is better described as a representation of Dominic Toretto and Letty Ortiz’s relationship. Its most beautiful and straightforward rendition can be heard in the cue ‘Letty and Dom’. Starting out on Spanish guitar with minimal strings in the background, Tyler switches the emphasis to soft piano and strings at 1:45. Though heard in really smart variations in numerous cues, including ‘Homecoming’, ‘A Completely Insane Plan’ and ‘Connected’, its most impressive take is in the highlight cue ‘Awakening’. The theme is hinted at in an almost cantata form in the beginning, before moving to a beautiful piano/strings sound at 45 seconds in. The cue lingers on a tinge of sadness, which is common with this theme in general, until the 2:14 mark. The cue proceeds to climax with the theme getting the most positive rendition we have heard yet.
A few sparse motivic ideas are introduced in Furious 7. A possible 4-note motif for actress Nathalie Emmanuel’s incredible hacker character Megan Ramsey can be heard in ‘Operation Ramsey’, but it’s a bit too vague to be fairly certain. Also, a 3-note motif with an accompanying repeated 4-note string rhythm is heard in the cue ‘God’s Eye’, representing the piece of technology driving (get it?) the film forward. The 4-note rhythmic string idea is also scattered in ‘Paratroopers’, ‘Mountain Hijack’ and ‘Operation CarJack’.
Brian Tyler is known for writing some long, furious action cues for the Fast franchise. This score goes away from that a bit, with ‘Party Crashers’ being the longest at 5:45. It’s a solid action cue, accompanying the crazy antics taking place in an Abu-Dhabi high rise luxury hotel. The cues ‘Three Towers’ and ‘Operation Carjack’ complete the music associated with Abu Dhabi, representing the build-up and execution to Brian and Dom’s impossible 3-building car jump seen in the trailer.’Mountain Hijack’ and ‘A Completely Insane Plan’ are nice action cues as well, with the former featuring string work reminiscent of Tyler’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles material. The latter accompanies the team racing to capture the hacker Ramsey held captive in an armored bus.
Furious 7 represents the last time we will see Paul Walker in the Fast and Furious franchise due to his untimely death. The upbeat theme representing Brian O’Conner and Mia Toretto’s (Jordana Brewster) relationship was introduced in 2009’s Fast and Furious. Heard in its most straightforward rendition on piano, guitar and light strings in the beginning of the cue “Homefront”, the cue ends on a dark tone following a surprise attack on Toretto’s home. The nostalgic and melancholic cues ‘Family’ and ‘Farewell’ accompany the final scenes of the film, guiding not only Brian O’Conner away from the gang’s future exploits and into family life, but saying goodbye to Paul Walker. In ‘Family’, the gang is gathered on a beach as they look upon Brian O’Conner playing with Mia and their kids. ‘Farewell’ accompanies the final scene where Brian and Dom race as friends one last time on a sunny mountain highway. At the end of the race, Brian smiles at Dom and exits the highway, driving away from Dom as the credits roll. A more upbeat rendition of the Brian and Mia theme accompanies the following scene with snippets of Paul Walker from all the Fast and Furious films – a truly touching tribute.
Though not very different from the scores of Fast and Furious (2009) and Fast Five (2011), Brian Tyler’s excellent thematic development of the Letty and Brian/Mia themes sets this apart from the previous scores. The better incorporation of those themes and the Main theme into action cues are also commendable, even though the straight-up pounding of the main theme can be grating at times. Though song placements in the film may impede on the work Brian Tyler has done here, the album gives you all the music heard in the film and more. Furious 7 may not win over fans hoping Brian Tyler returns to the fun mash-up of musical genres from Tokyo Drift, but given the content of this film, Brian Tyler conjures up the best Fast and Furious score since his first franchise effort.
Furious 7 is out now from Back Lot Music