Outbreak Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the film score Outbreak by James Newton Howard.
At a glance:
Geek Score: 84.5
Total Minutes Of Excellence: 35.18
Album Excellence: 38%
Outbreak is a 1995 American thriller directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman. A dangerous airborne virus threatens civilization in this tense thriller. After an African monkey carrying a lethal virus is smuggled into the U.S., an outbreak occurs in a California town. To control the spread of the disease, a team of doctors is brought in that includes a contagious disease expert (Dustin Hoffman) and his ex-wife (Rene Russo). Once the Army intervenes to handle the situation, though, the doctors must fight against the clock to save the town and its residents. The score is composed by James Newton Howard.
I remember watching Outbreak with my sister in the late 90s and loving it. I don’t remember if I ever saw the movie again though and the score I might have heard a couple of times, but it’s all forgotten. The original Varese score was only 30 minutes, but the new deluxe edition is three times longer so it’s massively expanded and that’s always fun. The jungle rhythms are happening! In the opening cue ‘The Bomb / Main Title’ it opens with a massive soundscape, jungle drums and even some muffled monkey screams. Then the main theme starts. The main theme is mysterious and very much into thriller land. Nothing too special though, but it’s definitely enjoyable. The jungle rhythms though, that’s what I like to hear and there’s more in ‘Motaba River Valley / Walk Through Village’. There’s a fantastic little action montage here that reminds me a bit of Goldsmith action. Interesting and so much fun.
Jungle rhythms are fun, but there are also more romantic music like ‘Keep The Dogs’ and Howard is very good at those so no surprise that I love it. I enjoy the music Howard has created for the virus as well. In ‘Examining The Virus / Old Friend’ he goes into deep textures, dark woodwinds and atonal music with creepy light woodwinds and the occasional string jab. Very scary and very fitting. Most of the music in the first half at least seems to be JNH in 90s thriller mode and it’s like music that feels like it’s top quality, but not really connecting with me. It bears some similarity to The Fugitive which was a hit & miss with me. I seem to remember that there was a lot more action in the film so hopefully that is reflected on the score. The action music does arrive though (along with the military apparently) in ‘Military Arrives’ and this is more like it. I enjoy Howard’s tense action, and particularly the percussion. More excellent action in ‘Trying To Escape’. Again, the militaristic percussion mixed with jungle drums is brilliant. I also have to mention the lovely swirling motif for the monkey. It can be heard in the beginning of ‘Jimbo Frees Monkey / Jimbo Gets Sick / Blood Splatters’ and again in ‘Monkey Lives / Casey Goes Down / Needle Prick’.
I think there’s far too much JNH in thriller mode and I can’t remember if it was like that in the 30 minute edition. His whole 90s thriller period was a let down to me personally (bar a few exceptions). All is not lost though because there’s far more exciting action in the second half of the score. The action kind of reminds me of Goldsmith at times which is never a bad thing. Particularly ‘A Little Resistance / Helicopter Chase’ got the pulse going. And of course there’s the beautiful ending cue ‘Robbie’s Cured / End Credits’ which features romantic score and action score in one nice “suite”. Finally there are 4 bonus cues and they’re all great, ranging from an alternative version of ‘Keep The Dogs’ to the album version of ‘A Little Resistance’. Thanks to a great second half, this score has got me smiling and eager to listen to it again so I think I’ll do that. There are quite a few cues that I’m likely to skip, but I steel have that good feeling after listening to it.
5. Keep The Dogs
13. Military Arrives
16. Trying To Escape
23. Sam Escapes
24. Tae Kuk / Affirmative
1. Robbie’s Symptoms
2. Finding The Ship
4. TV Station / Sam On TV
5. Cops Arrive / McClintock Takes Off
7. A Little Resistance / Helicopter Chase *
8. Robbie’s Bedside (Film Version)